For people who have never had physiotherapy before, the term might conjure certain misconceptions. People may associate physiotherapy with pain, and plain simple massage and exercise therapy. Some may also think that physiotherapists are not first line practitioners (meaning you only see them after seeing a doctor) and only treat muscular injuries. These could not be further from the truth.
Physiotherapy offers an incredibly valuable resource for people of all ages and all walks of life. From short-term injuries to long-term conditions, the practice is able to guide patients towards regaining mobility, flexibility, strength, and work towards mitigating any pain or discomfort they are feeling. Physiotherapists help their patients through movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice. They help patients manage pain and prevent disease, enabling them to stay in work and/or helping them remain independent for as long as possible.
To that end, Rapid Physiocare Managing Director and Senior Principal Physiotherapist Mr John Abraham has helped countless patients achieve these goals to maintain a good quality of life. With over 18 years of experience working for various healthcare organizations, Mr Abraham’s experience and knowledge in his field of expertise is extensive. But his considered opinions go way beyond physiotherapy. In this exclusive interview with Prime, Mr Abraham shares with us his thoughts on various health and wellness issues, including diet, exercise and stress management.
Good morning, Mr Abraham. Thank you for taking time to speak with us. As you are aware, Prime caters predominantly to health and wellness matters. What do “health and wellness” mean to you? Were you always health conscious since young or when did you first decide that health is important?
MR JOHN ABRAHAM: Health and wellness are arbitrary terms used by many in the healthcare industry. To me, health is wealth. It is your most valuable asset. Wellness is about mindfulness. It is about being aware of yourself and your body so that you can form great habits.
I have always been on the heavy side, even at a tender age. But being overweight did not affect my career progression in the healthcare sector, where I have worked in the last two decades. It was only when I was setting up my practice that I felt something was missing. It struck me that I needed to be more conscious of my body, and be a role model to my patients and colleagues. I then embarked on a journey of bodily transformation and managed to shed some weight. I am feeling much better now, full of energy and vigor to strive for the better.
I guess that means the adoption of a healthy lifestyle. How do you maintain balance between a healthy lifestyle and work? Do you think work-life balance is manageable for everyone?
JA: A healthy lifestyle is in the eye of the beholder. I have my ups and downs, but one thing I have learnt from being mindful about my health is that it takes precedence over the complexities of life and work. I work many hours during the day, but I have managed to squeeze in at least 3 sessions of workouts per week to maintain my fitness and improve strength in my body.
I believe everyone starts at a different level. You need to work out what you can manage health-wise (i.e. dietary changes, increase in activity/exercise, or getting more rest and time for family and friends) and make time for it. In that way, your priorities will shift and you may find a healthier you.
We all need to be in charge and held accountable for our own health. Prevention is better than reaction when it comes to health. So learning how to prevent yourself from getting chronic diseases like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, whether through lifestyle or dietary changes, is of great importance. And if you have any chronic disease, seek a plan to help manage and bring your illness under control, and improve from there.
A large part of healthy living is healthy eating. Do you pay much attention to what you eat? How difficult and important do you think it is to maintain a strict dietary regime?
JA: I do pay attention to what I eat on a daily basis. But frankly speaking, I think it is difficult to maintain the consistency of a diet plan. If you want to adhere to a diet, the first step would be to obtain a diet plan. You can do so by discussing with your dietician or nutritionist, to ensure that you have sufficient nutrition to supplement your daily needs. Do also check to see if you can include one or two of your favourite comfort foods as it can make it just a little easier to push through days when you are down.
Are you on a diet yourself? What kind of diet is it?
JA: Yes, indeed, I am on a calorie restricted diet which means that I have to limit my daily calorie intake to about 1,600 calories. For this kind of diet, the calorie count may differ from person to person depending on your goal (i.e. weight loss or gain). For me, I am looking to lose weight. This means that I have to count my calories, and watch how much protein, vegetables, fruits, carbohydrates and fats I consume and stick to the limit. I believe that diet makes up about 80% of the fight against weight loss. Hence, I would say it holds a pretty important place. Diet is also one of the factors that affects chronic diseases, so watch what you are eating.
Does your diet affect healthier eating in your family when you eat at home? What do you think is the role of the family in an individual’s diet plan?
JA: The influence of a family’s diet plays an important role in the diet of the family members. However, it is still possible to deviate or have an alternative diet from the rest of the family. In my household, for example, we have a calorie-restricted diet for the adults, while the kids get a normal balanced diet. It just takes some effort to ensure that everyone in the family have sufficient food and nutrients. I believe that whole and natural foods are the best sources of nutrition.
Going beyond diet, is physical activity (such as jogging, going to a gym, swimming, etc.) an important part of a healthy lifestyle?
JA: Absolutely! Physical activity can help you manage your energy levels, and keep you strong and healthy. It is also important to determine which physical activities suit you. If you are unsure, seek help to establish an exercise program to ensure your activities target and meet your goals.
Have you always been an active person since young? Which type of physical activities do you take part in? What do you and your family do for family activities?
JA: I have always been involved with sports, including cricket, weight lifting and bowling. I also enjoy jogging. I have been working on a strength and conditioning program as well as cardiovascular exercises to improve my overall fitness. I work out an average of about 3-4 times per week.
As for my family, we participate in various physical activities, including dance, basketball and football. But on family days, we like to gather to take walks down the Esplanade and Riverfront. We make it a point to put aside our phones and just engage in meaningful bonding conversations. These are always very enjoyable experiences.
Do you see these activities changing you and your family’s health for the better?
JA: I think engaging in exercise gets the body physically stronger, and you learn to be mentally strong and resilient. I feel that catching up with your family on their lives, and knowing how they are faring in life is heartening and can be enlightening. It is a great mental health check for the entire family.