By Mark A. Moyad, MD // University of Michigan Medical Center
Dr. Moyad is challenging you to step outside your comfort zone and reach a new level of physical and mental health. To take the challenge, visit www.pcri.org to see a list of suggested activities, or create your own. When you complete your chosen activity, you will upload a picture and a quick paragraph about what you learned from your experience.
Okay, I have to admit I am shocked that the response to the Moyad Challenge has been so large so quickly (I am going to cry! Not really, but it sounded good!). We are talking hundreds of people that signed up the first day, and it is on par (I like using golf vernacular) to reach thousands of people in just a few months. We have all types of cancer survivors signed up, many doctors and other healthcare professionals, pharma folks, supplement folks, diet folks, retired folks, people from all walks of life, dogs and cats (I made up that last part about cats), and it is simply fabulous!
So, now you are probably asking yourself, “Why did Moyad do this and why is he so darn good looking, muscular, sweet, brilliant, and wonderful?” (Okay, perhaps you did not ask yourself the latter part of that question.) Well, PCRI approached me and threatened me with some sort of violence or embarrassment if I did not do something that motivated people. So, for example, if I did not comply, Dr. Mark Scholz threatened to make me wear one of those patient gowns in his office. You know, the one that allows your gluteus to be exposed to the maximus?! I swear, if I was President of the U.S., and arguably I have as good a chance as any this year of making that happen… Anyhow, if I was President I would pass a law that made it illegal to put on those “it is always a full moon at our medical office” gowns.
Anyway, back to my mundane story that crescendos to the point where you will think you saw the latest Star Wars movie or a Hillary versus Trump future debate. In reality, I am in the middle of a mid-life crisis in 2016, and instead of attempting to cure my arguably temporary dilemma by purchasing a speedy new expensive convertible sports car or “B.S.ing” myself into thinking that 51 is the new 31, I have and continue to find solace and a solution in exercise. After 30 years of espousing exercise as probably the greatest drug ever invented, I believe this more than ever before. Why? Aging is also a game of unshackled, sympathetic overload and entropy or chaos when one does NOT exercise. You’re probably asking, “What does that mean Moyad?” It means you are rewarded for learning about diet and moving a little more like never before as you age. Think about how chaotic the human body gets with aging when one does not exercise in any manner—heart rate increases, blood pressure increases, blood sugar increases, weight and waist size can increase, anxiety, stress, and depression increases. One of the only factors that we can control to help counteract this messy situation is exercise. The human body is like an aging car, and if you let that car sit there for years and years without maintaining it, then it will rust, and it will get dirty and messy. This is also true of a house, a lawn, a backyard barbecue...
Sure, we also have drugs and supplements that work for many problems and these are all wonderful options when needed, but how do I know if I need any of this stuff unless I actually do my part to change my lifestyle, to see if that can solve or reduce my issue? And, if it does not fix things then at least it ensures that I do actually need to entertain other options, and it arguably also reduces the dosages of those other interventions, so my chances of suffering from serious side effects will go way way down. In other words, exercise is one of the greatest truth tellers ever invented for you, and allows you to be able to really see what your needs are, or are not, as you age. When diet and exercise does not work there is _______ (fill in the name of your favorite preventive/treatment best selling pill such as Viagra, Flomax, Avodart, Myrbetriq, Vitamin D, Prilosec OTC, Metamucil, Crestor, Metformin, Fosamax, blah blah blah blah blah). And, when my favorite pill is not working well enough then there is diet and exercise to enhance the effects of it. You see, you are in a no lose situation, as long as you play the diet and exercise or lifestyle game!
Recently I read the NY times best selling book “When Breath Becomes Air” and it was remarkable (almost as good as “The Supplement Handbook” by Moyad…Yes! I got in one shameless plug=winning!). This book, written by a neurosurgeon in training, is not just an easy, one day, remarkable read, it is a reminder of why we all need to BEAR HUG LIFE as much as we can while we are alive. But this book was also remarkable because all my close friends including my wife know that I never ever read books, because I do not want to read anything other than medical journal articles 24/7. However, this book and exercise together have become a regular 2016 reboot. It woke me up and reminded me how precious we are, and how our lives have and will change one day, sooner or later, in an instant. Whether it was the recent death of a close high school and college classmate, or my wife’s father dying when she was just a little girl, or one of our wonderful speakers at last year’s PCRI meeting that is no longer alive… It all changes so quickly and all the silly things that we constantly convince ourselves that matter do not really matter. This is of course until we realize that they do not matter. We need to resolve these things; these issues, now or soon, because otherwise they become wasted energy. Anger at a family member, holding a grudge, fighting with a spouse, not writing or calling your friend because _______, waiting on New Year’s day to exercise or get more healthy???. The time is now, not tomorrow and not January 1, 2017.
Exercise or moving regularly is part of your solution and after thousands of research articles we now know with amazing clarity that it reduces your heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, helps some reduce weight/waist, and is one of the greatest ways to prevent or reduce the burden of anxiety, stress, and depression. There is no greater anti-aging drug, and yet we search daily for the anti-aging secrets/pills, and exercise is right there staring us relentlessly in the face. But some of us have become desensitized and avoid looking at the elephant and giraffe in the room, as a way to fix things. Exercise reduces the entropy or chaos that life throws at us on a regular basis with age. It is for this reason, when talking to anyone from Europe, South Africa, Australia, South America, the common quotation I hear from patients and healthcare professionals is “I never regret a workout after I work out”.
As I am writing this today, I just finished a 10-mile run this morning and I have never been so calm, so content, so happy, so grateful for my life, wife, family, employer, boss, parents, kids, nephews, friends, and even my 2 brothers (despite the fact that they treated me like the family piñata for many years, but that is for another time when I can lie back on a couch and have a professional listen to me at 300 dollars an hour) and there is no damn way a new sports car or younger person telling me I actually look 40 years old could supplant these wonderful feelings. Yet, I owe part of that feeling to my daily exercise routine, because otherwise I would be a mess just like a car that sat outside for years without any attention or a lawn with formidable weeds that never received any serious care for years. I think this is the difference between bear hugging life or occasionally giving the anemic thumbs up sign. Now, I want to see this go to the next level. I want people to try new forms of this legal “drug” and challenge themselves and others to do the same. So, I am going to start playing basketball again and I am going to try swimming laps and I will continually provide some lifestyle and diet tips.
I want you to bear hug life. And if you think you already do this then I want you to try and bear hug life a little harder this summer. Please come along for the ride because when we do this together it allows you to appreciate a symphony and a solo artist at the same time, and all of this should open more doors that we never appreciated or even thought existed. Thank you, and now I will return you to our regularly scheduled program, but not for long! Stay tuned! Buckle up! Get excited! Get out there and do something you have never done before! Bear hug your friend, your spouse, your dog, your kids, your doctor, …from surfing lessons to dance class to hiking the Grand Canyon….just squeeze the heck out of this life! What are you possibly waiting for?