Published On: January 8th, 2024Tags: , ,

About the Author: Dan Alcorn, PT, DPT

Dr. Dan Alcorn, PT, DPT is a physical therapist with MovementX in Northern Virginia.

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What I Learned in 2023 – S.N.A.P. Edition

2023 has been a year of learning for me personally and professionally. I am learning that parenting two children is not as easy as “divide and conquer.”

 

Young associates of Dr. Dan Alcorn, PT, DPT in Arlington, Virginia.

 

Transitioning to my role as a physical therapist and health coach has taught me the impact that lifestyle choices have on our health. Typically, the impact of the lifestyle pillars of sleep, nutrition, activity, and psychological wellness (S.N.A.P.) have a greater impact on our health than our genetics [1]. I have learned this lesson, firsthand, through my interactions with Julie.

Julie and I have been working together over the last 6 months of 2023 and her journey has been a motivation, inspiration, [insert numerous superlatives here] to me from Day 1! She embodies the principle of “Start with Why” and has aligned the S.N.A.P. pillars with this First Principle.

 

Julie (and her Why?)

In recent years, Julie decided it was time to take ownership of her health. The combination of personal and family health obstacles jump-started Julie’s motivation to take a proactive approach to health, rather than waiting for something more/else to happen. She notices her mother’s health faltering as she ages, especially with regards to physical ability. Julie finds this to be a common thread among other family members of her mother’s generation. As a mother herself, Julie wants to be healthy and live well throughout her life.

The “health scare, close to home,” story resonates with many of us and Julie’s response to this story should be a How-To response manual.

 

A patient of Dr. Dan Alcorn, PT, DPT, performing a set of leg exercises in Arlington, Virginia.

 

Julie’s Response

Julie has become a voracious learner in the health and wellness space and can quote the latest teachings and research pearls of industry leaders such Peter Attia, Andrew Huberman, and the Wild Health Precision Medicine crew (***which warms my health coaching, podcast loving heart!). More importantly, Julie puts these podcast pearls to work! And here’s how:

Sleep

Julie is data driven. She uses the Oura ring [2] and appreciates the immediate feedback she receives each morning.

What impact does her daily routine have on her sleep? She can find it in real time. Julie has found the following sleep habits to positively impact her sleep quality (and score!):

  1. Consistency of sleep window (go to bed and wake up around the same time each day)
  2. Close the kitchen after 7 pm (stops eating right before bed)
  3. Calm down 1 hour before bed (removes screens/stressful activities)

Nutrition

This has been an evolving process for Julie. She started her journey with assistance from MyFitnessPal [3] to help her better understand what she ate (and how much of it) daily. Julie focused on the following nutritional principles:

  1. Increasing her protein intake (targeting a specific number of grams daily)
  2. Eating more omega-3 rich foods (ie sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, herring)
  3. Increasing her fiber intake (targeting a specific number of grams daily

Over time, Julie gained a better understanding of food intake, especially with regards to protein/omega- 3/fiber consumption and decided to wean down from nutritional apps. This has allowed her to take a balanced approach that is sustainable to her in the long run.

Activity

Julie has been an active person throughout her life. She started dancing at a young age and supplemented this routine with various forms of longer duration, endurance exercise. More recently, she has shifted her focus to intensity driven activities (interval training) and progressive overload weightlifting (lifting heavy stuff!).

 

A patient of Dr. Dan Alcorn, PT, DPT in Arlington, Virginia performing a set of hex-bar deadlifts.

 

She finds that her recent approach is more focused/specific, and she can directly connect her physical activity with her wellness goals. She continues with the data driven approach to physical activity, getting serial DEXA scans to track her progress on various metrics such as bone mineral density and lean body mass.

DEXA scans — Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry are low radiation scans that allow for visualization of bone mineral density, fat mass, and lean mass). [4]

In addition to well-rounded exercise, Julie is intentional in moving throughout the day. Some of her go-to movement practices include:

  • Walking for morning sunlight exposure
  • Mini work breaks for movement (walk around block, farmers carry, stairs)
  • Targeted mobility work for joints that are stiff

Psychological

What’s the point of all this physical health stuff if you are stressed out of your mind?! I hearken back to an old blog post of mine on chronic stress to provide some context.

Julie recognizes the importance of minimizing the impact of chronic stress on her life. She takes a proactive approach to de-stressing through a variety of activities, including regular meditation practice. Additionally, many of her activity practices double as psychological wellness practices – morning walks outside, evening walks with her husband, exercise snacks at work (which double as brain breaks), to name a few.

Julie has found that creating a wellness community plays a tremendous role in her enjoyment on this journey. She frequently travels for work and has arranged for team bonding activities that double as physical activities – yoga and surfing and tries to find a workout buddy for her weight training routine. Her greatest wellness community comes from her home – she has a supportive team with her husband and son in her wellness journey. Her son even indulges Julie by listening to her podcasts with her!

The icing on this proverbial cake? Julie enjoys the process. She has found a new passion in life and gets excited to learn/implement new S.N.A.P. habits.

Julie’s Advice?

Get it scheduled! Prioritize the activities that are meaningful to you and then have a plan to implement them into your life.

Thank you, Julie, for the advice and for the example you have set.

If you would like guidance to jump start your health journey, let me be your sherpa!

Dan’s “Go-To” Resources for S.N.A.P.

I have no affiliation with these people or companies – just a fan of their work.

Sleep Books

Sleep Smarter – Shawn Stevenson

Actionable tips to improve sleep quality. One, if not many, of these strategies will immediately level up your sleep quality.

Why We Sleep – Matthew Walker

Everything you could ever want to know about sleep. The sleep Bible!

 

The health book to end all health books

Outlive – Peter Attia

Peter Attia is a NorthStar resource in the health/wellness space.

 

DEXA Scan Location

Composition ID

Locations in the DMV for DEXA scans (as well as VO2 Max testing and Resting Metabolic Rate).

 

Meditation

HeadSpace

Meditation in all shapes and sizes from the soothing voice of Andy Puddicombe (worth a listen for his voice, alone).

 

Journaling/Mindfulness/Gratitude

The Five-Minute Journal

Great starting point for journaling or “forever journal.”

References

  1. 2022 – Wild Health Precision Medicine Health Coaching Fellowship. https://www.wildhealth.com/education
  2. https://ouraring.com/
  3. https://www.myfitnesspal.com/
  4. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/10683-dexa-dxa-scan-bone-density-test

About the Author

Dr. Dan Alcorn Physical Therapist with MovementX in Northern Virginia

Dr. Dan Alcorn is a physical therapist with MovementX in Northern Virginia. He is a Board-Certified Specialist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy and is also fellowship-trained in the care for upper extremity athletes. Dan Alcorn treats patients at Patriot CrossFit in Arlington, VA, and has a strong passion for improving people’s confidence through healthier movement, lifestyle choices, and longevity.

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