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Movement as Medicine

Dr. Joey Glenn, DC, owner of Engineered Per4mance, brings us a great guest post on the numerous health benefits associated with a life of consistent activity and movement.  



Active and athletic clients are my favorite. Typically the people that are out on the weekends paddle boarding, hiking or biking are the ones I can’t wait to see on Mondays. A particular favorite of mine went MIA on me for about a month. When he returned, I asked him what kept him away and he said he suffered a concussion while mountain biking. He warned me, “Stay off your bike, its just not worth it to do things like that.” I felt awful for him because he was clearly in a bad spot but the statement didn’t sit right with me. He went on to explain how he loves mountain biking but it’s just too risky and he realized that the rest of his life needs to be about mitigating risk, which meant no more biking, no more sky diving, and no more hiking even! He was effectively telling me he was done living because he was afraid of dying. We don’t think about it a lot, but how much more risky is just sitting at home? Yes, the risk of concussion is seriously lower, but you aren’t moving, and a sedentary lifestyle has its own host of health issues, most of which I will argue are much worse than a concussion. Let me preface this rant with a few statements. I have had my fair share of concussions, six of them in fact, and none of them were fun. I get it, it sucks and I completely understand this athlete’s frustration. I also want to say I understand there is inherently risk for much more serious injuries doing active things, some of them devastating, and accidents happen. But honestly, what’s more devastating than loosing your life to the couch? Loosing your health, not feeling able to join a pick up game or the new fun run? What about skipping vacations because you won’t be able to hike, or play golf?



bossHow many times have we heard this already? It’s catchy and it strikes a nerve with many as most of us have seen the effects of smoking first hand in someone we care about. Sitting, and further, being sedentary is the new smoking. We are insulting our bodies and physiology that were made to run, jump, lift, carry, and play by refusing to move. There are as many documented health risks of living a sedentary life as smoking, including but not limited to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. These are just as devastating and have an even easier solution than smoking cessation… physical activity. There is little as extensively researched and yet it is ignored by so many. Searching PubMed alone shows physical activity used as intervention to treat obesity, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, counter act effects of aging, and cardiovascular disease. All of those are on the first page out of 2539 published studies!  This is not new and your parents have been telling you since you were kids but now its time to listen up, not only because it will literally improve every aspect of your health, but because it will improve the quality of your life.

Living to me means being outside, moving, and experiencing life (and the world) with friends and family. Pick up games, hiking, biking, or surfing. My personal favorite, chasing my daughter around. The older she gets, the faster she is, and I plan on keeping up with her as she grows and joins teams. I have no clearer memory than practicing wrestling with my dad and I won’t deny that to my children. I often here the excuse “I’m just getting too old.” Recently I heard that exact sentence from someone in their 40’s! Are you kidding me? At Engineered Per4mance this excuse isn’t allowed in the building. I have seen 80 year old people dominating WODs. You’re not too old. I used to train an athlete in his 80’s in fact. He would tell me before every session “I’ll show you!” Those three words and the image of my athlete with his game face on still bounce around in my head when I’m feeling a little beat up. He chose to live a fulfilled and active life and I believe he’s squeezed more out of life than anyone I’ve ever met.



This is a loaded question because the host of benefits are derived from so many physiological concepts in our bodies. The Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand (SAID) principal explains what is happening inside our bodies when we move. When your body encounters a stressor, it responds with a specific adaptation to better handle that stressor in the future. This is why lifting weights increases muscle hypertrophy, strength, or endurance. The SAID principal explains why riding your bike everyday makes you a better rider or even simply why your desk job makes you faster at typing. These adaptations aren’t always muscular. The body responds in the exact manner it needs to better handle similar situations, which may be nervous system adaptations, physiological, muscular, or skeletal. Your body will not waste energy building and maintaining something it does not need. Sitting on the couch doesn’t require a whole lot of quad activation right? How many couch potatoes have an impressive physique? But look at a professional cyclist. It is no surprise they’re legs have adapted to the imposed demand and in the same body you may see atrophy of muscle in the less used upper extremities. For an example of nervous system adaptation look at professional archers. They can actually slow their heart rates while taking a shot. How impressive is that? Your body is amazing and can do amazing things, you just have to speak the language through repetitive movement and practice.

The most obvious adaptation to exercise may be the improvement of body composition which in itself is related to reduced abdominal adiposity, enhanced lipid lipoprotein profiles, improved glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity, improved blood pressure, reduced systemic inflammation, decreased blood coagulation, improved coronary blood flow, augmented cardiac function and enhanced endothelial function. I know, like I said, It helps with virtually everything just by improving your body composition.



Male Thalamus Brain Anatomy - blue concept

Male Thalamus Brain Anatomy – blue concept

The effects of physical activity on psychological health and wellness cannot be understated, and I argue, should play a larger role in mental health treatment protocol. Exercise is shown to decrease anxiety, stress, and depression while improving markers of self-efficacy, libido, sleep quality, and cognitive function.

Everyone has heard of the fight or flight response. Essentially, when presented with a stress inducing event our bodies respond in a manner to prepare to fight or run. Our heart rate increases and blood is shunted away from the digestive system and directly to muscles that might be helpful. Our energy systems are mobilized and pupils dilated. We virtually become the terminator. If someone would have told me when I was in high school on deck for a wrestling match that the butterflies might actually be blood shunted to my ass kicking muscles instead of vomit inducing nerves I might have loved the feeling instead of loathed it. Have you ever been a little nervous before a workout? I sure do, especially when I’m working on a weakness. This arousal is my sympathetic nervous system in some form turning on my fight or flight response. Theoretically when I encounter this stress in my every day life, I don’t panic. This feeling no longer induces anxiety because I’ve been there. I understand my physiology and I know how my body reacts.

The most common form of treatment for mental health disorders including depression currently involves Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI). This medication targets the neurotransmitter Serotonin. After it’s release, the medication prevents the removal of serotonin by the neuron and effectively increases the amount of it in the body. Serotonin is important because it is a “happy” neurotransmitter. It seems to regulate mood, appetite, and sleep. All of which are crucial to mental health, and you can see why pharmaceutical interventions target it. The great news and how this relates… so does exercise! Admittedly little research has been done to show an exact mechanism but we do know the total concentration does increase following bouts of regular exercise.

This article merely skims the surface of exercise and it’s host of benefits in the body. Physical activity is not something to avoid due to risk, it is something to seek due to reward. The potential to see benefit in all of the preceding attributes far outweighs the risk of injury in my mind. If there was a pill that had this kind of promise, everyone would be taking it. Can you even imagine a world where we were first prescribed movement before medication. Where you were sent directly to the local box or trainer before Walgreens? A book could be composed of the changes that would attribute to. I’m convinced movement is medicine.




downloadJoey is a Sports Chiropractor and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. After obtaining his Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences from the University of Iowa, Joey had an opportunity to work with Core Performance/Athlete’s Performance™ in Los Angeles, California helping everyday people and professional athletes reach their highest athletic potential.

Joey continued his education at Palmer College of Chiropractic West and earned his Doctor of Chiropractic Degree and Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification.  Joey worked for the Martinez Veterans Administration Hospital, treating our nation’s heroes and completed his preceptorship treating professional athletes and weekend warriors alike at Water and Sport Physical Therapy in San Diego.  After developing a passion for Olympic weightlifting, Joey obtained his USA Weightlifting Sport Performance Coach certification. Dr. Joey has a keen eye for proper biomechanics.  He is well-trained in deciphering between motor control limitations, mobility limitations, and other performance leaks.

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