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Move Well Age Well . . . EVEN with Arthritis - An Interview with Dr. Alyssa Kuhn

Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, doctor of physical therapy, provided a wealth of information during our interview*, Monday, April 12, 2021, hosted by the Revel community. Alyssa started her practice, Keep the Adventure Alive, after working in settings where she saw how limiting the advanced repercussions from arthritis, especially knee arthritis, could be to people’s lives, even for people in their 50’s and 60’s. In contrast, when she moved to Utah, she saw people in their 60’s through their 90’s actively hiking, cycling, and skiing. The idea to focus on a practice of optimism and hope for motivated clients with arthritis to help them live their lives to the fullest was born. Keep the Adventure Alive is a concierge, mobile and remote, physical therapy business; patients are seen in person or online.

Alyssa talked about the many negative misconceptions she encounters regarding arthritis, fear around moving joints that are bone-on-bone or that certain exercises will cause more wear and tear restricting people to limited low impact activities the rest of their lives. When experiencing pain in their joint, people become afraid they’ll aggravate it more by moving or exercising and believe help only comes from medication, x-rays, or surgery. In contrast, Alyssa takes a natural approach to treatment to avoid or push off the need for surgery and to help clients move safely to develop strength to enable them to move more.

In her book, Move Well Age Well: How to Rock the Later Years with Fitness and Mindset, Alyssa is a voice in the changing-the-face-of-aging movement, urging us to move away from associating aging with pain, weakness, and breakdowns, but rather imagining the infinite possibilities for this phase of life. She urges us to action, “To age well, we have to improve not only our physical wellbeing, but also our emotional, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing, too.” Alyssa was inspired by the Katie Couric, Next Question interview with Ashton Applewhite, a leader in the aging conversation and author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism. Our own Stephanie O’Dell interviewed Ashton for Revel.

With regard to exercise, my favorite quote from Alyssa’s book is, “Exercise can bring an insane amount of benefit to your life and it truly is something we just have to make time for, or else we will be forced to make time for disease.” About how much to exercise, Alyssa states the recommended 150 minutes of exercise recommended (American College of Sports Medicine, CDC, American Heart Association, NHS, Harvard Medical) should be considered a starting point, rather than a goal. She says focusing on the lowest amount of activity may not help us accomplish the improvements in endurance and strength we might need if we want to live our lives to the fullest and recommends some type of strength work to counteract the natural loss of strength that comes from aging.

About the level of effort we should be aspiring towards when we work out, in her book Alyssa provides the BORG Rating of Perceived Exertion suggesting an effort on a 1-10 scale be between hard and really hard, a 6 to 7, by one definition, somewhat short of breath, and to ask ourselves after we work out, was it hard enough, am I challenging all parts of my body, and am I progressing? She recommends workouts include exercises with enough variety to work all the muscles in our bodies noting that we help strengthen joints with weight bearing exercises.

When asked, is walking enough, Alyssa’s strong advice is variety – so if you’re only walking, find a way to add some strength exercises into your week. Do some push-ups and a few other exercises when you get home, when you’re all warmed up. Alyssa’s YouTube Channel is full of short workouts. She acknowledged, we all have different motivation and goals. One participant shared her mother’s hard work doing physical therapy exercises to recover from a fall to be able to make tortillas again. If your goal is relief from arthritis pain or ability to keep up with your grandchildren or to ski or hike again, you may need more. She says, “It’s all about finding something that you enjoy and sticking to it.”

We touched on the huge topic of arthritis, inflammation, and nutrition. Alyssa’s blog post, 15 Amazingly Simple Ways to Reduce Inflammation from the Experts, summarizes her interview with Dr. Ann Kulze of Dr. Ann Wellness, an MD specializing in nutrition and disease prevention and also provides a link to that interview. They have a great discussion, not only about specific foods to eat and avoid, supplements to consider, but also about the role of sleep and stress and other factors have on our overall health.

Other questions asked during the conversation were about heat vs. ice (both work, personal preference), the benefits of wearing compression sleeves on painful joints (great idea, during or after exercise), whether coffee is ok (yes, but it’s dehydrating so drink extra water), and is warming up before exercise recommended (depends on the person and type of activity you’ll be doing).

Thank you, Alyssa, for inspiring those of us who attended from the Revel community and the START the ADVENTURE . . . for the Rest of Your Life Fitness Challenge that begins May 5th!

Here’s some ways you can learn more and follow Alyssa on social media.

*Unfortunately, the interview was not video recorded. This voice-only recording is available on YouTube. Alyssa recorded it with her iPhone and you see her keyboard in the video.

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