Heartland’s hints for getting back on track to better health

Written by by Jim Berger. Posted in January

Happy 2018! May it be a year filled with much joy and happiness!

I have had the joy of providing health, wellness, and therapy tips for over 10 years in Healthy Living News. I have shared many insights into therapy services and treatment approaches, as well as nutrition, eating, and exercise. I am so fortunate to be able to have shared and look forward to continuing in 2018.


My article in January usually focuses on New Year’s resolutions—making them and how to be successful in accomplishing them. This year is no different. However, this time I will focus on what to do to get back on track with the healthy lifestyle program that was started last year or even the year before.

Many of us have been good at exercising and eating healthier this past year, and for that congratulations are in order. But over the past month or so, we may have stopped our routine, exercised less, eaten a little more than we should (or more of the things we shouldn’t), and gotten less sleep than we need to get. No need to get down on yourself for this! There is nothing that you can do about the past.

The best thing you can do is get back into the healthier lifestyle routine that you were in for most of the year. Your body has had a rest (which is good at times) and now is ready to get back into the routine that it liked doing most of the past year.

Start by simply eating healthier than you have during the past month! It may take a little effort since your system has gotten used to that extra sugar fix and is starting to crave it. Make simple adjustments in your eating habits until you get back to what was working a few months ago.

The same can be said for exercise. Start back with less intensity than what you were doing when you were in a consistent routine. Try using a lighter weight or doing fewer reps until you are ready to get back to your prior exercise level.

If this is the year you have said you are going to start a healthier lifestyle program, in order to be successful you have to make a lifestyle change that becomes consistent, a new habit, routine, or norm. The key is to start simple and build on that foundation. Begin by knowing where you are—your current weight, how many calories you consume daily, how many times you eat/graze throughout the day, and how much water you drink daily.

Second, make a simple change or two. For most of us this works better than trying to make major changes, but if the only way you are going to make it work is to shake things up significantly, then that’s what you need to do!

One simple change may be drinking an additional glass or two of water each day. Another may be just having smaller portions at each meal. It’s a starting point. However, it’s important to realize that, in making simple changes, you will not see or feel the impact immediately or in a short period of time. You will see it over the long run. You may find that you have a little more energy or that you are able to sleep a little better. These can be keys to identifying success overall. Weight loss is what we focus on, but it is not the only indicator.

Third, remember that exercise is a critical part of any healthy lifestyle program. If you have been a major “couch potato,” then start by moving around the house more than sitting. If you can walk at the mall, gym, work, or outside, then start making it a part of your daily routine, be it 5, 10, or 20 minutes.

If walking and moving is an issue, then sit or stand and move your legs in a marching motion. Movement is the key. Then add some exercise that involves resistance: pull, push, press using your body weight or light weights. Again, if you haven’t done exercise in a while, start with 5 minutes a couple times a day. The key message is don’t try to exercise for an hour if you haven’t done any exercise or you’ve done only limited exercise. You have to build up to this to be successful. As always, make sure you consult with your primary care provider first. If you’re limited due to pain, then start with physical therapy. A physical therapist will address the reason for your pain and then help guide you on an individualized program.

It is a new year, and for many of us that means a new benefit year and changes to insurance plans. Heartland Rehabilitation urges you to look over your renewed plan carefully and answer the following questions: Have there been changes to my plan? Are there increases in out-of-pocket expenses due to higher co-pays and deductibles? Have there been changes in the amount of therapy I can receive? Is a referral or prescription required for therapy? Is the preferred therapy provider I want to see in my plan?

Answering these questions will help you fully understand your benefits, especially as they apply to any outpatient therapy services you might be seeking. Heartland Rehabilitation Services can assist you in getting answers to your insurance coverage questions and navigating through the confusion. We can work with you on managing your out-of-pocket expenses for outpatient therapy while maintaining the focus on getting you better and functioning at your optimal level.

Insurance issues or questions aside, we shouldn’t let that drive our decision to receive therapy. We need to address the pain issues or limited mobility issues that we are experiencing and if corrected would allow us to focus more fully on a healthier lifestyle.

Physical therapy helps in the following ways:

  • Increases and maintains muscle strength and endurance
  • Restores and increases joint range of motion
  • Increases coordination
  • Decreases pain
  • Decreases muscle spasm and plasticity
  • Decreases swelling and inflammation of joints
  • Promotes healing of soft tissue
  • Alleviates walking problems
  • Educates patients and families
  • Decreases stress.

In addition to this extensive list of benefits, physical therapy is cost-effective, conservative, and non-invasive; has no negative side effects, but numerous positive outcomes including improved function and a greater sense of well-being; addresses the cause of the problem instead of masking symptoms; and is administered by licensed, highly educated professionals. Instead of wondering whether you should seek physical therapy for a condition or injury, you should ask yourself, “What am I waiting for?”❦

Mercy Health snow winter 2018