By Dr. Neil Sweigart
It’s that time again, when the world turns another year older and we turn a fresh page to begin another list of New Year’s resolutions.
Another new year, another new set of resolutions. However, researchers are saying that only 8 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions stay true to seeing them through.
A 2019 poll revealed that more than 50 percent of Americans with resolutions failed keeping them by Jan. 31. The two most common resolutions were:
- Diet or eat healthier (71 percent)
- Exercise more (65 percent)
We know exercise positively affects heart disease, cancer, depression, diabetes and overall health. As President Kennedy said, “Our growing softness, our increasing lack of physical fitness, is a menace to our society.” This is so true, not only regarding health-care costs, but the effectiveness of our military.
Health care is bankrupting not only our country, but is the most common cause of personal bankruptcy. We spend more than twice as much on health care per person than any other country and yet rank 41st in life expectancy.
A recent article in USA Today reported on a study regarding finding physically fit military recruits at a time of rising obesity in the United States. This is especially acute in the South — where it traditionally draws a high percentage of soldiers. Army recruits from Southern states are generally in poorer physical condition than those from other areas, concluded researchers at The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, S.C.
“This has a real impact on national security,” said Daniel Bornstein, a researcher who led the study.
If more exercise is one of your resolutions, and I hope it is, there is one often-ignored aspect of which we need to be aware. Exercise starts from the ground up and we cannot and should not ignore our feet.
One in three patients have excessive pronation often accompanied by flat feet affecting alignment of knees, hips and back. That means your body may be off balance. A recent study showed that women with flat feet are 50 percent more likely than those who don’t to have low back pain. When the body’s foundation is not balanced, the entire body is affected — pain in the knees, hips, joints, back, even headaches may result.
Some of the most significant problems arising from exercise include plantar fasciitis, foot pain, ligament and cartilage damage to the knee, hip pain and back pain. All of these injuries can and often due arise from a poor foundation — your feet.
A common contributing factor, especially among women, is overpronation (inward-rolling feet). As we walk or run, our heel strikes the ground and then the foot slightly rotates inward to act as a shock absorber. This reduces wear and tear on all the joints of the body. When the foot overpronates, excessive stress is put on the arch of the foot and the plantar fascia. This often results in plantar fasciitis (heel/arch pain) and knee pain. In my experience, as much as 80 percent of all knee pain is primarily due to stress on the knee due to pronation.
There are effective corrections that can eliminate the pain without narcotics and improve your odds of avoiding knee and hip surgery down the road:
- Supportive shoes or inserts. Shoes with thick soles and extra cushioning will make it less painful for you to stand or walk. Arch supports can distribute pressure more evenly across your feet and limit pronation.
- Taking pain-relieving non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, NSAIDS like ibuprofen or naproxen. You shouldn’t take these for more than a month, so talk with your doctor.
However, the real cause is body mechanics. So please buy good supportive shoes and consider investing in a good insole or orthotic (arch support). Many people will do well with off-the-shelf products, but more difficult cases may require custom orthotics in addition to good shoes. These steps can greatly help reduce your chances of injury and help you heal even if you already are experiencing pain.
As George A. Sheehan stated, “Exercise is done against one’s wishes, and maintained only because the alternative is worse.”
Start exercising safely. You can do it! Good luck!