Pete Williams is the Founder of Functional Medicine Associates

As humans we are designed to move. Not just a little, but for most daylight hours.

Consistent daily movement is crucially important to our health because our physical structures (such as bones and muscles) and our many of our genes are designed to work optimally only when we physically move.

Take your bones. You can take as much vitamin D, calcium and other cofactors you choose to prevent bone loss, but if you’re not applying consistent load and force to your bones through exercise, supplements alone won’t help bones stay strong and fit for purpose. Our gut microbiome can also benefit from movement. Research has shown that athletes have a more diverse gut microbiome as a result of daily movement.

Every single aspect of your ‘being’ is influenced both positively and negatively by the amount of movement that is applied. In short, your physiology expects movement daily.

The problem with modern day living is that many of us spend too much time sitting and not enough time moving. Sitting down for prolonged periods of time (i.e. more than 30 minutes) starts to starve your brain of oxygen and nutrients due to reduced blood flow, increasing risk of longer-term damage to brain and metabolic health. Critical advice for all, and even more so for those predisposed genetically to dementia.

Research has shown that exercise and movement really is the ‘poly pill’ to functional medicine

The good news is that this lack of blood flow to the brain, caused by sitting, can be offset by simply engaging in 2 minutes of movement for every 30 minutes of sitting. We like to call this the ‘30 for 2 rule’. It’s a rule we encourage all of our patients to adopt. Especially those whose jobs/lifestyle require them to sit for long periods daily.

Research has shown that exercise and movement really is the ‘poly pill’, as coined in an original 2013 scientific paper. Researchers fully embraced this term to demonstrate how increasing aspects of our physiology are optimised through movement. If you haven’t yet heard of ‘myokines’ then get ready for a whole new area that will further shape the systems thinking approach in functional medicine.

Movement for most in the functional medicine space remains the poor cousin to stress and nutrition. This is most likely down to the fact that practitioners have less knowledge and experience in this area, and, consequently, patients and practitioners miss out on its power to heal. Here’s where technology can help.

I am an exercise scientist by background, but regardless of how much knowledge we have as practitioners, our advice to heal needs to be given to our patients in simple daily doses over time. Any change in lifestyle can be difficult to achieve in an ‘obesogenic’ world. That’s where technology has really helped me. Given many of my patients are technophobes, and I include myself in the mix here, using tech should not be dismissed because of lack of engagement with it.

At the Wellbeing World Virtual Expo, I will demonstrate how simple technology can help you engage your patients in more daily activity, and how the use of technology that any practitioner can use in their consulting room, can replace expensive fitness testing. I will also show visitors how basic phone ‘apps’ can help us to really dig down and understand how our patients exist in their worlds and how they can empower patients to take charge of their health, whilst providing the practitioner with ongoing movement data.

Wellbeing World Expo is the perfect opportunity for tech providers to engage with some of the brightest thinkers in systems biology, attending as visitors or speakers. We can all learn, collaborate and benefit from new connections. After all, our world has changed unrecognisably in 2020 and the way we practise may have changed forever. As part of that change, technology can enable patients to gain powerful insights into their health and help us as practitioners obtain new data for effective results to empower individuals.

About Pete Williams

Pete Williams is the Founder of Functional Medicine Associates. Pete has an academic background as an exercise and medical scientist with an expertise in applying ‘systems biology’ to chronic disease. He is an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner with over 20 years’ experience applying Functional Medicine in clinical practice, representing the Institute for Functional Medicine as a Clinical Innovator.

Over the last 5 years Pete’s team have built up a wealth of experience in brain health, cognitive decline and neuroinflammation, with a focus on barrier control, genetics, microbiome and the ‘exposome’. Pete is currently using his expertise to develop a genetics panel for dentists, practitioners and patients, due to be launched later this year.