Optimum health

A couple of weeks ago the Times newspaper ran a big spread entitled “How to be healthier and live longer: A guide to midlife”.  The areas it covered were food, exercise, the mind, relationships, sleep and hormones.  Pretty much every day there is some piece of ‘new’ research espousing the benefit/harm caused by imbalance in one of these areas.  

When I first started writing my blogs I used to comment on the latest physical activity benefits research, but there’s so much now that I’ve stopped.  The truth is, all of us know that to achieve optimum health we need to pay attention to our whole person - mind, body, emotions and spirit.  Everything is interlinked.  And if everything is interlinked to achieve optimum health, the same must be true when we lose it.

This fact was brought sharply into focus when I attended a recent lecture at Bristol University given by Dr Andrew Weil, director of the Arizona Centre for Integrative Medicine. It covered the following:

  • Is the current healthcare crisis going to be solved by more hospitals, drugs and surgery, or by changing our approach?
  • Are doctors taught enough about nutrition and other lifestyle approaches to treating illness?
  • How can conventional and complementary medicine work together to support health and wellbeing?
  • Should physical and psychological complaints be managed by different specialists and unconnected treatment approaches?
  • How can people become equal partners in their own healthcare team?
  • How can we ensure medicine is delivered in a way which values people as much as protocols?

I came away energised.  Advances in modern medicine and surgery have been amazing.  But from my own experience and the experiences of those of you who Nordic walk with us I have also seen how this one area of physical activity has the power to transform our physical and mental wellbeing.  It is the body helping and healing itself.  

Integrative medicine is defined by Dr Weil as healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person, including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasises the therapeutic relationship between practitioner and patient, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapies.  You might be interested to know that Bristol has four organisations promoting this approach:

Arm swing - bent arm vs straight arm when swinging backwards

This is a small point but might be of interest to those of you who enjoy the the technical refinements of Nordic walking!
We all know the importance keeping your arm straight (with a soft elbow) during the forward arm swing phase of Nordic walking.  We also know that the ultimate finish position for the advanced Nordic walking technique is a straight line from your shoulder to the tip of the pole as in the photo above.  However, what’s the story on the bit in between? Should we try and keep our arm straight as we swing our arm backwards or is it better to allow our elbow to bend as we push the pole behind us?  
Whilst out Nordic walking recently I started playing around with bent arm vs straight arm and here’s what I found:

  1. My power and my rotation increased when I ‘led’ with my elbow when swinging my arm backwards.
  2. My arm strength and tone increased when I kept my arm straighter.

So if speed or back health is top of your list I would recommend you allow your elbow to bend during the backward phase of the arm swing.  If toned arms and shoulders are your thing, then keep your arm straight.  I’d also be interested on your feedback here.  Let me know if you find the same is true for you.

Vicky

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