Health: Continuing our journey toward a healthier lifestyle

Posted: Thursday, February 04, 2010

Welcome to the Juneau Empire's new health and fitness section. It is an honor to speak to you twice a month in this format. My writing will obviously be influenced by both my professional training and personal experience, so it makes sense for you to have a little background information on the person spouting all this advice at you.

As a chiropractic physician, I recognize and advocate the importance of prevention and non-invasive treatments. And having had very successful back surgery myself five years ago, I'm also acutely aware of modern medicine's benefit. Nonetheless, I am still of the mind that proper nutrition and exercise will do more to increase the quality and quantity of our lives than any drugs or surgeries.

Bodybuilding has been a love of mine since my Karate Sensei introduced me to it when I was 16. Although I began competitive bodybuilding in 1980 at the age of 20, it wasn't until 2001 that I won my first title. Obviously then, I'm no stranger to delayed gratification or being an "also ran." Having been a clumsy, uncoordinated child, I also understand those who are not naturally inclined toward organized sports or even exercise in general.

I was a couple of decades ahead of the curve with weight lifting. When I started in the mid-70s, everyone warned me, "All that muscle will turn to fat when you stop." Now professional athletes in virtually every field embrace strength training, and doctors tell their patients to lift weights to prevent osteoporosis. Strength training is also the most effective way to lose fat, maintain muscle, improve hormone levels and increase function. In short, it is now recognized as cutting edge anti-aging medicine.

Those who have been reading my Wednesday Empire columns for any length of time know that in addition to eating right and exercise in general, I am a big proponent of stretching. Now, whether you are a chiropractor, a physical therapist, or a Pilates instructor, you really can't come up with a stretch or core stability exercise that isn't also a yoga posture. Along with strength training, yoga really is the closest we have to a fountain of youth. I was fortunate to discover yoga 25 years ago and have more flexibility now at 50 than I did then.

The last major component of health and well-being is mental, emotional and spiritual health. Having an optimistic outlook has been proven to improve our health and extend our life expectancies. On the other hand, I vehemently disagree with the notion that we should all be constantly happy. Sometimes we need to be sad or grieve or just be a little overwhelmed. The last thing we need when going through a rough patch is to beat ourselves up over not having a positive enough attitude.

While I am generally optimistic by nature, I also have a bent towards depression. Having been clinically depressed myself, and having lost a dear friend to suicide, I am acutely aware of how we all have our struggles. When you hear me preaching the benefits of exercise, proper nutrition, light boxes and meditation, it's because I know firsthand of their benefit in improving well-being. I also know firsthand what the alternative is.

How you eat and whether or not you exercise are not moral issues. They do, however, profoundly affect your health. Making changes, especially in these areas, can seem overwhelming. Please keep in mind that you don't have to make heroic life style changes in order to start reaping benefits. My hope is that this column can serve to help simplify the sometimes paralyzing amount of information on health and fitness and provide you with simple steps you can take.

Please join me as we kindly continue on our journey toward a healthier lifestyle. We are never going to reach perfection, but maybe by supporting each other we can make small steps towards living our lives a little more fully.

• Dr. Corey Pavitt is a chiropractic physician, competitive bodybuilder, and a recreational yogi, cycling and hiking enthusiast. He and his wife Ellen own and operate Pavitt Health and Fitness.

His Wednesday Juneau Empire column has run over nine years and will continue in addition to this bimonthly article.

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