We all have a purpose on this planet and those who dedicate their life to serving others have a special place in our hearts. I had the pleasure of connecting with Dean Sbragia — CEO of Medical Fitness Solutions — who has dedicated his life to educating the public and clinicians that there are non-pharmacological solutions to the comorbidities of aging. We all know that as we age there are physical and biological changes that occur. Aging is a beautiful process — even though we may not like the gray hair, thinning skin, and wrinkles. But… what’s going on the inside should be of your concern as you age. Luckily, we have people like Dean Sbragia to inform us. In this blog, you will get to know Dean Sbragia and his company Medical Fit Solutions.
We’ll use the term comorbidity often in this post — Here’s what it means: the simultaneous presence of two or more diseases or medical conditions in a patient.
Now, let’s learn about Dean!
Dean Sbragia in a Nutshell
Through education and experience, Dean has acquired a wealth of knowledge and continues to challenge, experiment, and learn. Dean started his career at 25 years old as a territory manager of physical therapy equipment in northern California. He moved on from that position and was hired as the Director of Marketing for Sunrise Medical. Through his work ethic and dedication to the field, he worked his way through the ranks and became the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for two divisions. With an urge to ‘break the mold,’ Dean started his own company with the premise of “Exercise is medicine.” That is when Medical Fitness Solutions (MFS) was born.
Medical Fitness Solutions
In the acute care world, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies make their money from sick people, but Dean had a different goal in mind. He posed the question; how do we rehabilitate people who have been injured or sick and how do we keep them well without going back into the drug and acute care arena?
The answer to that question gets a bit complicated, but Dean was able to modify fitness equipment, develop training software, and design products that address specific health issues. MFS takes pride in offering a non-pharmacological approach to get people healthy and keep them healthy.
“A lot of the things we address are degenerative.”
– Dean Sbragia, CEO, MFS
To name a few, Medical Fitness Solutions specializes in the comorbidities of aging including:
- Sarcopenia – loss of muscle mass
- Mental decline
- Balance and Mobility challenges
- Circulation, pain, and hormonal issues
Unfortunately, all these areas start to degenerate as a result of aging. The good news: through consistent programming modified for the individuals’ needs, it is possible to reverse or delay the comorbidities of aging.
Certain issues, i.e., Skeletal and muscular, are easier to help with, but mental and neurological issues become a lot more complicated to assess and address. That is why the products Dean and his team create are so important. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather create a wellness routine that keeps me healthy than take tons of prescriptions to keep me “healthy.”
The Acute Care, Pharma, and Insurance Tug of War
One topic we talked about that blows my mind but doesn’t surprise me, was Dean’s tug of war analogy. On one end you have acute care/pharmaceutical companies that don’t make money when you’re well. Medication temporarily helps with your ailments, but what happens when you stop taking them?
Then on the other side, you have insurance companies who want to keep you healthy because they don’t want to pay for your care if you happen to get sick or need a procedure.
The person stuck in the middle… YOU. The perfect scenario for your health and your wallet would be to stay out of this tug of war. This can be achieved through exercise.
” The exercise elixir can help you avoid both (acute care, pharma) of them.”
– Dean Sbragia, CEO, MFS
Not only is exercise inexpensive, but the benefits are enormous! You will still need acute care in the event that you injure yourself. i.e., falling off your bike. You may need pharma in the event you need medication. i.e, pain management. You will still need insurance to help cover the cost. Acute care, pharma, and insurance are still necessary, but if you can avoid them… wouldn’t you? MFS provides solutions that keep people out of acute care & off medications, if possible. They ultimately want to empower and encourage people to take care of themselves and have the knowledge and tools to do so.
The Hierarchy of Medicine
When it comes to cost, Dean explained the perfect model that we can look at. The most expensive care is far left and the least expensive is far right.
Looking at this hierarchy of medicine, it is in our best interest and cheaper to hire a nutritionist to learn your diet and nutritional needs, consult with a personal trainer that modifies exercise for your age, and then you take over and maintain through self-care. The self-care tier includes maintaining your diet and a regular exercise routine. A gym membership these days costs anywhere from $10 – $200 a month. In the grand scheme of things, is way cheaper than actively allowing the comorbidities of aging to creep up because of inactivity.
A Talk with Your Younger Self
I asked Dean, what would you say to your younger self in regards to health and fitness? Here’s what he had to say:
- Train smart and safely: When you are younger and going to the gym there’s a bit of unspoken competition with the person on the weight bench or treadmill next to you. Dean says to fight the urge to try to out-train someone else. When you get older, all the stress you put on the joints comes back to haunt you. Train smart, isolate muscle groups and recover through rest days. Slow and steady wins the race!
- Eat healthy balanced meals: When you’re younger, unhealthy food is very appealing, but nutritional underpinning is very important to get results. If you have a poor diet, then you may be negating all the hard work you’re putting in. Developing healthy habits at a young age prepares you for when you get older. You’ll be healthier, less prone to illnesses, and may live longer. Don’t know where to start? Hire a nutritionist to get you on track. Remember, it’s cheaper than acute care and medication. Look at it as investing in your vitality.
- Build strong bones: You build bone until about 30 years old. Take advantage of that while you can. Do as much physical activity that promotes bone growth. You can play basketball, tennis, jog/run, hiking, weight training, and stair climbing.
- Transition into safer exercise: As you get older, your body becomes frailer. At a certain point, you have to start tapering more intense physical activity to safer, but effective exercises. That means lifting lighter, transitioning to resistance bands, speed walking, and so on. Your risk for injury and recovery time from injuries increases as you get older.
5 Exercises Older Adults Can Do Now
Before we close out the blog for this week, we want to leave you with some exercises that older adults can do safely.
- Gardening: Gardening is great! You’ll get Vitamin D, a bit of strength training from lifting pots & scooping soil, and a lot of functional movements (bending, squatting, sit/stand, kneeling).
- Safe Seated Exercises to build postural musculature: You can do resistance band mid-rows, scapular abductions, and lifting bodyweight with support.
Posture exercises can benefit each of us in a variety of ways. It can help with back and neck pain, help us to breathe deeper and with greater ease, help to reduce our stress levels and, in general, help us to feel better and more energetic. When we strengthen our posture muscles, we may reduce our risk of musculoskeletal issues and infirmities
- Compound complex movements that are functional: These are movements that you do on a day-to-day basis that are functional to your routine. This includes getting in and out of a chair, chair squats, reaching and pulling, step up and down, etc. You want to do these to a point where it starts to burn not hurt.
- Swimming: This is a great low-impact exercise especially for those with arthritis. A heated pool is most beneficial. Water aerobics classes are great for cardiovascular health.
- Walking or Walk While Seated: Going on a daily walk for 30 minutes is recommended by many doctors. Walking is generally a safe exercise, but as we age we may develop balance and mobility challenges. This can make walking difficult and dangerous. A viable option for older adults with balance and mobility issues is to walk while seated with the miniTREAD®.
Exercise is Medicine
Whether you’re reading this as a young or older adult, focusing on your fitness and nutrition will only benefit you. Be sure to train smart, modify exercises to your age & fitness level, and hire specialists if you need help getting started. It is cheaper in the long run.
Stay tuned for part two (2) of the blog! We will continue the conversation and cover balance & mobility, plus two (2) techniques you can do at home to test your balance.