Chiropractic and Aerobic Fitness
We think mostly of chiropractic treatment in terms of lower back pain, neck pain, and headaches. In fact, there are numerous additional wide-ranging benefits to chiropractic health care. Many of these benefits are related to getting more out of our exercise activities.
For example, aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular function.1, 2 As a result, during periods of rest the heart rate is slowed and the ability of the lungs to take in air (vital capacity) is increased. A slower heart rate means the heart is working more efficiently. Likewise, increased vital capacity means the lungs are working more efficiently. Fewer heart beats per minute and fewer breaths per minute result in reduced "wear and tear" on these critical systems. Aerobic exercise makes us healthier.
When we have stress, our muscles get tight. Sometimes this tightness is prolonged, and the normal mobility of our bones and joints is compromised. Reduced mobility of the spinal column creates a spiraling effect of tight muscles, tight ligaments, and further loss of mobility in the neck, middle back, and lower back. We experience pain in these areas as a result.3
These patterns may persist. We all know people who have frequent neck pain or lower back pain. These patterns of pain and limited mobility may result in changes to the normal curves of the spine. Normal curves may become flattened, and these changes result in further discomfort, muscular tension, and pain.
Importantly, loss of the normal spinal curvature in the neck and middle back may place additional stress on the heart and lungs. The actual, physical space in which these organs function may then become reduced. Maximum function may be compromised and efficiency is lost. Brisk walking used to be easy. Climbing stairs used to be no problem. Now these normal daily activities may leave you out-of-breath. You're huffing-and-puffing and don't know what's happened.
You begin doing aerobic exercises to try to improve cardiovascular function. But the potential benefits are limited by these underlying muscle, ligament, and joint problems. You spend a lot of time exercising but don't seem to be making any improvements.
Chiropractic health care may be able to restore more normal functioning. Chiropractic treatment restores mobility to spinal joints. The gentle treatment relieves stress on the spinal muscles and ligaments, which in turn improves spinal range of motion. Muscle tightness eases, pain and stiffness are reduced, and you become more flexible. In addition, this improved flexibility allows your chest and rib cage to expand much more fully when you breathe. Your heart and lungs have more room to function, and you can now actually begin to receive the full benefits of your aerobic exercise. This in turn, leads to improved "Stroke Volume."
Stroke volume is not about improving your golf score at least, not directly! Physiologically, stroke volume is the amount of blood your heart pumps every time it beats. The more blood pumped per heartbeat, the less frequent your heart has to contract to provide the needed amount of blood.
Our heart's efficiency is directly related to stroke volume. Increased stroke volume means less work for the heart. As you do more and better aerobic exercise, you are training your heart to be more efficient. Stroke volume increases over time as a result of this exercise, and you notice a number of things. First, it's much easier to walk up hills and other inclines. Stair climbing requires no extra effort. If you're a swimmer, you can go longer between breaths and you can stay underwater longer. And, you notice your heart rate goes down. A good resting pulse is 60 beats or less per minute. Most people who aren't exercising have resting heart rates of 70 or greater, even 80 or greater. Fewer heartbeats per minute means less work for your heart.
Aerobic exercise, done correctly, makes a person much healthier overall, positively impacting many body systems.
Chiropractic care helps you get fit and stay fit!
1 Pivarnik JM, et al. Effects of maternal aerobic fitness on cardiovascular responses to exercise. Med Sci sports Exerc 25(9):993-998, 1993.
2 Jackson EM, Dishman RK. Hemodynamic responses to stress among black women: fitness and parental hypertension. Med Sci Sports Exerc 34)7):1097-1104, 2002.
3 Petrella RJ, et al. Can primary care doctors prescribe exercise to improve fitness? Am J Prev Med 24(4):316-322, 2003.