A healthy body heals faster than an unhealthy one. This is common knowledge, but following an injury or when experiencing chronic pain, exercise can seem daunting, if not impossible. At Advanced Integrative Movement (AIM) Physical Therapy, a holistic treatment approach includes fitness and exercise to facilitate healing.
Working at AIM for the past five years as a physical therapist assistant, Dan Parsons takes the advice he gives to patients and applies it to his routine by consistently showing his commitment to his own healthy habits.
With 25 years in the physical therapy field, Parsons does not simply instruct exercise and fitness techniques, he makes it an integral part of his daily life. Parsons participates in half-marathons on a regular basis, and has even competed in mud runs such as the Gladiator Run and the Tough Mudder. He plans to join in the upcoming Rainier to Ruston Relay, a 50-mile 4-person relay. Making fitness a paramount part of his life is a daily commitment. His quest to find the most complete fitness system and to realize its role in his life has been a long one, but his knowledge is vast and holistic and represents a body of wisdom from which his patients can all learn.
As a youth, Parsons was a self-proclaimed “typical hard-headed guy” whose fitness regime included the usual sports such as wrestling, pole vaulting, and football. Joining the Navy out of high school, Parsons participated in the customary military exercise programs, mostly sticking to the weight room and staying conditioned for military fitness tests. He also served as a Physical Readiness Coordinator for a time, assisting individuals with weight or obesity issues.
At this point, however, Parsons began to question the traditional approach to fitness, particularly the emphasis on strength training. He describes that, “I started noticing that there was probably something more to just kind of lifting weights and getting stronger and stronger and stronger.” As a result, “I started doing different things” such as riding a bike and running for fun. He says, “I got more into running and I really enjoyed it.”
A significant moment in both his personal and his professional fitness development, Parsons describes how “About five years ago I attended a continuing ed [education] class and the gentleman’s name was Gordon Browne…he’s a physical therapist but he’s a movement specialist.” A different and exciting approach, Parsons explains that this emphasis on movement integration has transformed his perspectives on what it means to be fit. “I attended one of his seminars. It was kind of an epiphany for me that, yeah, I was strong and I could bench 300 pounds, but I really couldn’t move well, and I didn’t know how to recruit the muscles I needed to recruit to move. I just tried to muscle everything.”
Recognizing the wisdom of this mobility concentration, Parsons knew that he needed to bring this information to AIM Physical Therapy and their patients. Encouraging Kurt Moss, PT, and owner of AIM, to attend a Gordon Browne seminar, “He [Kurt Moss] established with Therapeutic Seminars, a two-year residency program for the company where Browne instructed the professional staff on how to integrate the entire body and to apply it more in the clinical setting.” The result has been beneficial for all involved. Parsons affirms, “It really changed the way I looked at fitness, that there’s probably more to it than just cardiovascular and strength. There’s the ability to move and flexibility is also a big, big part of it, too.”
Being 50 now, Parsons is especially mindful of maintaining his health in a lasting, consistent way. Rather than primarily setting out to build strength, Parsons has shifted his focus to a full-body health. This sort of health is what he advocates for his patients as well. At AIM, as the name states, the focus is the integrated body and ease of movement for better health and healing.
Parsons elaborates: “The population we deal with, they’re coming to us because they’re injured, they hurt. It’s not going to be easy for them to exercise so I think you really got to set up an exercise program that challenges them, but is something that’s not going to push them to where they’re in pain and inflamed, and laid up for two weeks.”
Highlighting how fundamental Parsons believes mobility to be, he explains how “I use a lot of functional integrated mobility exercises, both in my personal life and with my patients. I think I use it more so in my personal life because it feels good, but if I’m going to be teaching it, I want to know how to teach it…I’ve got to feel something to teach it.”
Parsons emphasizes that one’s fitness will only increase in proportion to the effort one devotes to exercise and nutrition. After all, he says, “You didn’t lose that mobility—you didn’t lose that flexibility or lose that strength—overnight, so to get it all back in one or two visits is probably not an appropriate goal. If they’re willing to hang in there and work with us, I think that we definitely get results.”
With effort and commitment, full body health and improved mobility is an attainable goal, with Parsons himself as proof. The patients are not in this alone, however. He asserts that he will also be giving his best for his patients, recognizing that “If people know that you’re giving them your best effort, I think they will give you their best effort.”