Exercise for Disease Management Is a Bitter Pill To Swallow

Many find the advice of exercise for disease management a bitter pill to swallow, even when faced with a scary diagnosis like diabetes or hypertension. Thinking of exercise as doctor-ordered medicine makes it seem too tedious and boring. Simply “exercising for 30 minutes a day” can feel like too much of a time commitment. Sitting still is easier. This is why sedentary lifestyles lead to as many as 1 in 10 premature deaths around the world.

But what if exercise could be fun rather than a chore?

I saw this in action the other day at the gym. Looking out the window, trying to forget I was on the elliptical machine, I saw swarms of kids running, spinning around and racing each other everywhere. It’s the kind of behavior I hadn’t seen since I was about 12.

I wondered what on earth could push kids of all shapes and sizes to voluntary physical fitness. After all, these are the same children who statistically spend more than seven and a half hours a day in front of a screen.

They were playing Pokémon GO.

Making Physical Fitness a Game

Pokémon GO, for the uninitiated, is a wildly popular game for mobile devices that sends players on real-world scavenger hunts for online characters. Players see their real environment through their phones but with an image of a Pokémon character.

The unintended benefit of this game is that the kids in my neighborhood are becoming more physically active. Why? Because it’s fun.

This is the message we push in our work with schools, companies and communities. Make regular exercise fun, and people will keep doing it. Getting in 30 minutes per day does not have to be drudgery—honestly!

Ideas for Promoting Healthy Living

Pokémon GO is one suggestion for making healthy kids. Here are some other ideas from some of the people who participated in our Promoting Healthy Lifestyles course:

For two clients who are in wheelchairs but need physical activity:

“I recommend hand bikes, stretchy bands, leg lifts (if they are not paralyzed), and/or pool exercises.”

For a 16-year-old girl unhappy with her weight who loves animals:

Volunteering at an animal shelter to walk the dogs/socialize with the animals is a low-cost way to get some exercise without ‘overtly’ exercising.”

For someone with arthritis pain to work healthy habits into his life:

“Since one of his barriers is pain in his joints, I advised him to start small by parking his car farther away from the entrance when he went shopping.”.

For motivating a family member to exercise regularly:

“My daughter was overweight and a loner. We started to go to Zumba classes together. She enjoys it and she has lost weight. She has maintained her weight and she changed her diet on her own.”

Share these ideas with someone who could use a little motivation for active living today.

4 Summer Reading Picks That Are Good for You

If you like your summer reading to reaffirm the work you do building healthy communities, we’re here to help. Here’s your professional development reading assignment that’s actually fun. Some are learner favorites from our courses and others just deserve attention. Read on for picks for the summer reading season, which we hope will inspire you to keep learning even when you’re on the beach.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures

by Anne Fadiman, Paperback, 368 pages

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down could be a textbook case study for culturally competent care—it’s certainly a rich example and one we use in our health literacy course—but it’s also the compelling tale of what happens when well-intentioned health care workers fail at cross-cultural communication. Author Anne Fadiman tells with masterful literary journalism the story of Lia Lee, a Hmong child from a refugee family from Laos living in California. Lee, diagnosed with severe epilepsy, suffers while her loving parents and providers miscommunicate while she goes from emergency room visits to intensive care unit (ICU) admissions to legal courts and finally to irreversible neurologic damage.

Read an Excerpt

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (Chapter 1) Birth

If Lia Lee had been born in the highlands of northwest Laos, where her parents and twelve of her brothers and sisters were born, her mother would have squatted on the floor of the house… READ THE FULL EXCERPT

The Arrival

by Shaun Tan, Hardcover, 128 pages

The Arrival

The Arrival is a stunning, compelling piece of art with a powerful story about what it’s like to leave your home for a new country. Shaun Tan’s graphic novel–which doesn’t use a single word (aside from the title)–is a lesson in empathy and communication. The migrant story trails a man who leaves his wife and child in a faraway city to find opportunity elsewhere. Everything is fantastical and foreign: strange animals, unintelligible languages, and incomprehensible customs. Along the way, he’s helped by strangers, who each have their own complex histories. Its gorgeous pages let you experience what it’s like to be helpless in a strange place, and also provide a valuable example of how you can communicate when words fail.

One Step Behind

by Henning Mankell, Paperback, 440 pages

One Step Behind is truly beach reading material, but it shows that illness can befall anyone, even Inspector Kurt Wallander. Henning Mankell’s popular Swedish crime series is just as gruesome and horrific as his other novels (spoiler alert!), but this time Wallander is solving crimes while dealing with a new diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. He shows that diabetes self-care is extremely challenging when you have a busy day job. This book didn’t make the cut of our Diabetes and Prediabetes course, but it still provides an interesting perspective on juggling health care needs with work.

Tip for TV-watchers: this book was also made into an hour-long series starring Kenneth Branagh.

Watch a Clip

Instant Influence: How to Get Anyone to Do Anything—Fast

by Michael Pantalon, Hardcover, 256 pages

Instant Influence

Students of Motivational Interviewing know that this communication framework is invaluable for inspiring people to stop smoking, eat less salt, exercise more, and generally make positive behavior changes. Instant Influence: How to Get Anyone to Do Anything—Fast by Dr. Michael Pantalon is an excellent introduction to how motivational interviewing can have a positive effect on just about anyone, including your patients, clients and community members. The author draws on his 20-year career in addiction research and clinical practice to realize that:

  1. Motivating someone to enter treatment can be done with effective strategies. (Interventions rarely work)
  2. We have treatments that work, but we’re not using them. (Most rehabs don’t use scientifically supported treatments)
  3. You need help to get good help. (AA is not treatment, a recovery coach will help you get treatment)

Watch a Clip

How Stereotypes Are Bad for Your Health: Guest Post

Think you’re immune to stereotyping the people in your community? That you never notice a person’s skin color, what they’re wearing, what their gender is?

Then look at this cartoon and think about your reaction:

stereotypes

It comes via the article “The Bubbles Inside Our Heads,” by Marilyn Gardner, educator, nurse, trainer, thinker, “third-culture kid” (and sometimes Talance collaborator) who writes about culture and sometimes health care on her blog Communicating Across Boundaries.

It’s a great article that examines what happens when we get caught up by our stereotypes, particularly those about muslims, and how that affects our work in neighborhoods, workplaces, and health centers.

To get a sense of the article and how these thoughts can be bad for community health, here are some excerpts from Marilyn, originally published on her blog:

“The problem with stereotypes is not that they are incorrect; it’s that they are incomplete.”

The cartoon characters have formed opinions based on stereotypes. Neither of them are capable of complexity, of seeing beyond the surface and trying to understand each other. It’s an excellent cartoon showing the great divide between cultures and the danger of stereotyping.

I call this picture “The Great Divide.” There is this chasm separating these two that has far more to do with the bubbles inside their heads than reality. Indeed, research tells us that if they did get to know each other, they may find they may have much in common.

If we are honest with ourselves, we will recognize that much of the time we are like this cartoon. We live according to the bubbles inside our heads. None of us are immune. We form opinions and assumptions based on our cultural values, our religious views, our socioeconomic status, the media we listen to, watch or read, our countries of origin, the countries that adopted us, the families in which we were raised, and the list could go on.

Bubbles aren’t inherently bad — often they help us to make good choices; but other times they prevent us from seeing people as they really are. They float down through our brains and cloud our vision.

My African American friends often fall victim to head bubbles. At one time, the director of my program was an African American woman raised in Ohio and transplanted to the East Coast. She was amazing and had degrees after her name that I could only dream about. But no matter where it was, when she walked into a new doctor’s office or clinic, immediately the person behind the desk asked for her Medicaid card. The bubbles above their heads told them that she was black, so she was poor. She was black, so she must have public assistance in everything from food to insurance.

The challenge is to be aware of them, to recognize them for what they are: stereotypes and biases that are rooted in our subconscious, and must be recognized and confronted.