Personal Fitness Professional - March/April 2013 - (Page 30)
Phil Kaplan | www.philkaplan.com
Rediscovering Hygeia, the missing goddess
Jack Sorenson has high blood pressure and is
50 pounds overweight. He wants to feel better. He opts for a medical consult.
Judy Bluestar has hypothyroidism and is
having trouble maintaining her weight. She
opts for a course of hormonal injections, thyroid pills and medical advice.
Dave McGan, Josh Greenspan, and
Chuck Vanelli, although they’ve never met,
all start their mornings with a ritualistic popping of pills intended to treat their blood sugar, blood pressure and
hypercholesterolemia. Their doctors set them on a common course.
I’ve learned to refer to those who are functional, working and living their lives burdened with chronic ailments and dis-ease as “the
unwell,” and they make up 60 percent of our adult population. We,
as fitness professionals, are sometimes invited to help the unwell
marketplace find renewed health, but the bulk of our field is serving
other markets, the markets most acclimated to our offerings, the fit
and the near-fit.
The unwell typically go in another direction. They opt for medicine.
The world of medicine is a very different world than the world of fitness. Medicine involves pharmaceutical interventions. Fitness involves
exercise prescription. Medicine involves blood tests and urine analysis. Fitness involves skinfold measurements and timed runs. Medicine
involves surgeries and bypasses. Fitness involves adaptation and progressive challenge. Clearly these are not only two different business
models, but two different universes.
Medicine is applied by doctors and nurses; fitness strategies are
taught by and guided by personal trainers, exercise physiologists and
group exercise specialists. Different skill sets, different educational requirements, different positioning in the eyes of the public.
I believe the separation between fitness and medicine is not only
misguided, but it limits the ability of a unified allied healthcare team to
begin to improve the health of our nation. I can take it a step further. I
believe the separation between fitness and medicine evolved from a
place where they were rightfully joined, entwined like a pair of snakes
wrapped around a staff, and it’s time to get them reconnected.
Wait, that’s an odd metaphor, isn’t it? Entwined like snakes around
a staff? Where’d I pull that out of? I pulled it out of history, with a dabbling of Greek mythology. I’ll explain.
You’ve seen the medical insignia featuring a snake or two wrapped
around a staff, and like most people, you never questioned what in
the world snakes had to do with medicine. Western medicine has its
roots in ancient Greece, somewhere around the 5th century BC. Hippocrates, a philosopher and healer, has been revered as the father of
medicine, and with his texts withstanding centuries and generations,
every physician in the Western World begins his or her career with
the Hippocratic Oath.
“I swear by Asclepius, Hygeia, and Panacea . . . to do no harm.” This
translation from ancient Greek texts refers to teachers and physicians
| www.fit-pro.com | mar-apr 2013
who lived before Hippocrates, the most prominent of which was Asclepius, who was the first recorded physician – a masterful healer. He
planted the seeds of what we refer to as medicine today. He walked
with a large staff and believed snakes had healing powers. His ancient
healing “facilities” were abundant with non-venomous snakes.
The medical insignia is a representation of The Staff of Asclepius.
Ah, so it begins to tie together.
There’s more. Assclepius was not only a healer, but a teacher, and
he passed along his skills and knowledge to his daughters, Hygeia and
Panacea. Panacea was the goddess of herbs and surgeries. Her sister,
Hygeia, an equal partner in medicine, was the goddess of wellness,
of self-care. In other words, medicine, at its roots, had two distinctive
parts, one being the use of unnatural interventions, the other being
recognition of the body’s ability to preserve or restore health.
Today, in the 21st century, medicine has lost sight of Hygeia. Drugs
and pharmaceutical interventions are clearly the domain of Panacea,
and “wellness” has become an almost frivolous pursuit of the near-fit.
Ancient Greeks might have understood the complementary power
of herbal elixirs and human movement (exercise), but they didn’t have
epidemics of type 2 diabetes. They didn’t have diagnoses of metabolic
syndrome. They didn’t have processed grains, hydrogenated fats, environmental toxins, or offices that had them sitting round-shouldered
typing away at computers.
From what I understand, some of those players back in the 5th century BC knew how to party, so they weren’t strangers to excess, but if
medicine had two parts back then, it’s clear that there was an “undoing” process for some of the perils of overdoing. We desperately need
that power of “undoing” in the U.S. today.
With an enhanced skill set, the fitness professional is a true healer,
and while Panacea can fix damaged limbs, manage chronic conditions, and remove arterial blockages, if we are going to lead the unwell to “cure” we need to reconnect the broken lines of medicine.
Through exercise and eating interventions we can reduce and often
reverse the onset of chronic disease. We can positively impact insulin
efficiency… without drugs. We can positively impact hormonal balance… without injections or pills. We can improve our population
(here comes a word I made up but you’ll get the gist of it) biochemicanically. In fact, I’ve seen firsthand how a strategic integration of
exercise and lifestyle shift can move people backward along the disease continuum, back toward health. It’ll take some time before the
snakes become entwined once again, but with a growing awareness
of the power we truly have to impact the health of our population,
perhaps Hygeia can return to a platform to stand behind her sister
and we, as the messengers, can serve as invaluable members of the
allied healthcare team.
Phil Kaplan has trained a growing number of personal trainers to integrate strategies for restoring the unwell to health with his ASPIRE program. If you have interest, email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Personal Fitness Professional - March/April 2013
Personal Fitness Professional - March/April 2013
Letter from the Editor
Table of Contents
Boost Your Business
Journey to Success
Have You Shifted Your Group Exercise Paradigm?
Group Training Game-Changers
Obstacle Race Training for the Adventure Athlete
New on the Market
Personal Fitness Professional - March/April 2013