Lifestyle medicine, which gained more attention and popularity in recent years, is considered an appropriate tool to achieve health and wellbeing by changing daily habits and reduce stress levels. But what does lifestyle medicine encompass? It is a new, holistic medical approach to heal, by gaining an overarching view of all aspects of a patient's lifestyle to find all underlying roots for a specific problem.
Complex diagnoses might identify poor nutrition patterns, harmful addictions, lack of movements and exercises, unresolved work/life balance schemes, stress, psychological blocks behind specific sickness symptoms.
A disrupted Circadian system, for instance, can lead to a number of health problems. The Circadian systems support the natural rhythm that serves as a basis for restoring and maintaining health and wellbeing and is not limited to sleep only. Timing is everything for sleeping and food intake as our body works with 'organ clocks' that need to be synchronized in order to be efficient. Disruptions in this timing can affect energy levels, weight, mood, hormonal balance, fertility and may also create risks for cancer and cardiovascular diseases, including high blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Eating at the wrong time leads to weight gain even if the same number of calories is consumed.
Diagnostic testing is becoming more and more sophisticated and easily available. This includes genetic testing to get information about individual risks, which then can be addressed to avoid their manifestation. Cardiovascular diagnostics, fitness assessments, metabolic stress tests, baseline EGG or polysomnographic tests for evaluation of sleeping disorders are key elements for the personalised Lifestyle Medicine for defining the appropriate therapies, nutrition and activities that will best contribute to the guest’s health improvement program.
Health resorts and retreats also often serve as a starting point to implement changes in our daily routines and break away from old habits and stress. This can be achieved in two to four weeks under optimal conditions and with professional help. Most of these resorts offer service packages tailored to different needs and personal targets of customers, such as weight loss, detoxication or de-stressing.
Changing daily routine's eating habits is a fundamental element of improving the quality of life. Lifestyle resorts can offer a controlled environment to introduce a personalised healthy nutrition program by offering plant-based nutrition, farm-to-table foods with own organic plants and farms, cooking classes which provide direction for implementing the learned healthy eating patterns in the everyday life's routines.
Supplements, like herbs, vitamins and minerals are also of utmost importance in healthy daily routines, therefore, will be also evaluated during the diagnostics and monitored during a lifestyle program. Optimizing vitamin B12 levels is essential for better energy and cognitive performance, especially when people are on a plant-based diet. Improving vitamin D levels is important not only to reduce the risk of osteoporosis or cancer but also for keeping our heart and immune system healthy. Taking magnesium at night improves the quality of sleep and also supports muscle relaxation and digestion, taking probiotics is advantageous for good health and our immune system. Herbs can be used as food ingredients but can also serve as a base of therapies like fitotherapy or aromatherapy.
Movements & Exercises
Lifestyle Medicine, as a holistic approach, is also looking at the individuals' fitness levels, as improving the quality and quantity of movements and exercises can be contributors of healing many physical and mental disorders. Based on the individual' fitness assessment, personalized fitness training programs can be developed by health experts. At a Health or Lifestyle Resort the variety of movement programming can range from using selected cardio machines in the fitness room to group exercises (e.g. like yoga, Pilates, various dances), jogging, tracking, walking, cycling, swimming or even physiotherapy depending on the individuals' assessed physical fitness and health levels. Regular medical follow-up checks are integrated into the programs to monitor the activities' health impacts.
Technology Solutions and an increasing variety of gadgets can help monitor progress and remind us of our commitments and assess results in terms of sleep, heart rate, food and supplement intake exercising and can also provide access to medical data. Many resorts already allow guests to use special mobile apps that offer a great variety of tools, such as providing personalized advice to times and durations for sunlight exposure for an optimal vitamin D intake or even making it possible to message or video chat with medical experts.
Such packages often include coaching and education, allowing guests to understand and implement sustainable lifestyle changes at home. Some resorts also employ health experts or physicians to draw up overall lifestyle medicine programs to reveal and treat lifestyle-related causes of disease with a focus on nutrition, sleep, physical activity and mental balance.
Helping guests adopt new daily routines with lifestyle medicine tools could make resorts and retreats valuable partners in achieving health goals. And once guests are on the path of implementing a healthier lifestyle at home, retreats can continue to play an important role as 'refreshers' or 'battery rechargers' and also serve as the perfect places to upgrade our knowledge on health.
About the author: Dr. Maria Ridao Alonso, RLA Advisory Board Member
Dr. Maria Ridao Alonso is a preventative medicine specialist and thought leader on the topic. She is currently both the Managing Director and Medical Director of Dubai Herbal and Treatment centre (DHTC), which was founded in 2003 under the auspices of His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.