Consult Your Doctor Before… Moving?

Part One

The statements can be endless. Consult your doctor before starting exercise…. using this program… participating in activity—and on, and on, and on. That suggestion is actually made to protect your health, not to refine or individualize your personal approach to exercise activity and athletic endeavors.

Many in the general public assume they may receive some level of exercise guidance from the inquiry, but physicians are not formally trained in exercise prescription, and unless they have specialized training, their opinions on the subject differ greatly. They are, however, pretty effective at screening for serious health risks that could potentially be worsened without guided forms of exercise and activity.

So what’s the takeaway here?

If you ask a physician about health, you will get an expert professional opinion about your health risks associated with exercising and participating in activity. On the other hand, if you ask a physician about specific exercise or fitness practices and programs, you will get an opinion, but it may not be expert. It cannot, by definition, be expert unless the physician answering the question also holds a secondary credential or certification in some form of exercise or activity instruction. Physicians have little time in their training to understand exercise as it relates to rehabilitation, fitness and performance enhancement. Thus, their directive toward exercise and activity is to protect you, not to specifically correct or enhance you.

I’m not throwing stones here, because even though physical therapists and chiropractors use forms of exercise prescription to enhance the rehabilitation process, their opinions on exercise as it pertains to fitness and performance are largely formed by personal experience and not by professional standards. I’m a physical therapist and my exercise opinions outside of rehabilitation were not formed through my formal training. They are a result of my experience, exposure and opportunities to investigate different forms of exercise. My formal training did not expose me to the most effective methods of weight loss or athletic performance enhancement, but my training helped me appreciate how each of these modes of exercise should follow some principle-based format.

Expect the physician to consider your health and advise you based on the systems he or she evaluates. As you walk out of the office with your clean bill of health, do not assume you got a clean bill of movement. Your other systems have been checked, but who will check your movement competency?

Since it appears that a clear standard on the practice and participation of exercise is uncommon, we as exercise and rehabilitation professionals should return to fundamental points of agreement and try to work forward. I propose a clear set of standard exercise principles, principles that are fundamental and nonspecific. They can be applied to the human condition at any point on the path of movement. In the book, Movement, my contributors and I attempted to draw a line in the sand using principles. Our experiences have shown that medical and exercise professionals will not arrive at clear and consistent communication unless they put aside their preferable methods and opinions and revisit the fundamental principles of movement—the undercurrents upon which all exercise, activity and athletic achievement float. Clarifying the underlying principles of movement is refreshing if you have an open mind because your best and worst experiences can be explained when a fundamental principle is either upheld or overlooked.

I would like to provide an assignment while you await the second part of this article, and it’s this: Define the difference between movement competency and physical capacity. Invite you colleagues and peers to participate in the drill.

And now, click here for Part Two.

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