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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Are You Deconditioned?

Can't do what you used to do 10 years ago?  Have you been to multiple doctors who have told you your heart and your lungs and everything else is fine?  You may be deconditioned.

I see many patients on a weekly basis who have been through the million dollar work up to find out why they are limited in their ability to do.  I ask a series of questions and do my exam and not uncommonly, at the end of the visit, I say you are deconditioned.

Seven out of 10 times I get the response, "what does that mean?"  I used to interpret this question as meaning I need to provide further explanation and sometimes it does. However, not uncommonly the meaning of the word itself, "deconditioned", is not understood.

Ask yourself these questions:
  • How far can I walk before I have to stop?
  • Why do I stop? (E.g. shortness of breath, fatigue, pain, etc)
  • When was the last time I was able to walk one mile (or distance desired) without such symptoms?
  • How much exercise do I do every day? 
As a perspective, consider a healthy 19 year old college student who is given the task of sitting in her room for two weeks straight watching TV, playing video games, sofa surfing and otherwise being a couch potato.  At the end of the two weeks she is asked to walk up two flights of stairs.  At the top, she is breathing heavily, heart is racing and she may be reaching for the hand rails to help pull her up another flight. 

This is the effect of deconditioning...there is nothing wrong with her heart, her lung or her muscles.

The effect of deconditioning occurs rapidly as we age.  The elderly may lose as much as 55% of their exertional capacity after only two weeks of bedrest!  

How long have you been sedentary?  For most, it's far longer than two weeks.  It has been a decade or longer. 

Even if you have organ disease like heart disease, kidney disease or lung disease, deconditioning typically co-exist with these diseases accentuating your limitation to more than what is attributable to the disease itself. 

So get up and go! Mobility is life!