I read this great study the other day, reported in a journal called BMC Pediatrics. The researchers studied children who were living with chronic diseases such as asthma, type one diabetes, and cystic fibrosis. They found that with parents doing diligent background preparation, these children did not perceive their illnesses as barriers to participating in sports or other play activities of their peers. The doctors describe them as active, and indicated that both their level of physical activity and their positive attitudes were gateways to a future healthy adult life. One of the children is quoted as saying, “There’s nothing I can’t do: I just put my mind to it and I can do it.”
Albert Einstein said, “nothing happens unless something moves.” Relatively speaking, three little words should be your major New Year’s resolution: move move move. The more research I do the more studies I find connecting movement and health.
Health writer Gina Kolata recently cited a series of studies on health improvements in patients of intensive care units These patients were helped to set up and/or even to walk while still on respirators. The studies and more like them are under way to help change the often devastating outcome of an ICU stay on the average patient:
Even a few days in an I.C.U. can be physically devastating immediately afterward, said Dr. Naeem Ali of Ohio State University. In a recent study, he and colleagues at three other universities reported that 25 percent of patients who had spent at least five days on ventilators could not use their arms to raise themselves to sitting positions. Many could not push back against a researcher’s hand.
This echoes an article I read in the New Yorker last year by one of my favorite medical writers, Atul Gawande, called The Checklist. In his research into ICU practices, he noted the following:
A decade ago, Israeli scientists published a study in which engineers observed patient care in I.C.U.s for twenty-four- hour stretches. They found that the average patient required a hundred and seventy-eight individual actions per day, ranging from administering a drug to suctioning the lungs, and every one of them posed risks. Remarkably, the nurses and doctors were observed to make an error in just one per cent of these actions—but that still amounted to an average of two errors a day with every patient. Intensive care succeeds only when we hold the odds of doing harm low enough for the odds of doing good to prevail. This is hard. There are dangers simply in lying unconscious in bed for a few days. Muscles atrophy. Bones lose mass. Pressure ulcers form. Veins begin to clot off. You have to stretch and exercise patients’ flaccid limbs daily to avoid contractures, give subcutaneous injections of blood thinners at least twice a day, turn patients in bed every few hours, bathe them and change their sheets without knocking out a tube or a line, brush their teeth twice a day to avoid pneumonia from bacterial buildup in their mouths. Add a ventilator, dialysis, and open wounds to care for, and the difficulties only accumulate.
In other words, there is no such thing as a neutral state. There is nothing benign about not moving.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.