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A More "Fresh," Inclusive & Enjoyable Approach to Exercise


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Many fitness professionals tend to think in quite narrow terms about movement and physical activity. Firstly, the image that comes to mind for many of us is typically something exercise-related, rather than just any form of enjoyable movement (think lifting weight versus dancing or gardening). Secondly, the environment this movement is performed in is most often a health/fitness club or gym. While this approach is not wrong in the least, it is clear that it only resonates with out 20% of our population. A broader perspective on movement, and where it is performed, could go a long way to engaging a much larger segment of the population.

This broader perspective is exactly the focus of our discussion in episode 57 with Dr. Melissa Sundermann. Dr. Sundermann is a Lifestyle Medicine Physician as well as accomplished endurance athlete and ultra-marathoner. Her unique perspective on medicine and treatment of chronic disease brings together two of her passions: movement and being outdoors. As we’ll discuss in this conversation broadening our language to include the term movement makes physical activity more approachable for the many non-exercisers in the population. Furthermore, being outdoors confers specific health benefits, not achieved while spending time indoors. As Dr. Sundermann points out the combination of movement and being outdoors can really amplify the effect on overall health and wellbeing.

Dr. Sundermann’s energy and passion for this topic is abundantly clear from the beginning of our chat to the very end. More importantly she provides an important perspective on how fitness professionals can engage a broader segment of our population, and do so in a way that makes physical activity more approachable, inclusive, and enjoyable. This is definitely a perspective shifting conversation that should be enjoyed while taking a nice, brisk, walk outdoors.

Our Guest: Dr. Melissa Sundermann

Dr. Melissa Sundermann is a plant-based physician double board certified in both Internal Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine and has been practicing medicine for over 20 years. She also has training in Integrative Medicine through the University of Michigan and has completed a Professional Training Program in Mind Body Medicine through the Center for Mind Body Medicine based in Washington, DC. She has been featured in several Lifestyle Medicine articles and podcasts as well as an invited speaker for health/medical national conferences. She strongly believes in fostering a partnership with her patients and helping to guide them towards a healing pathway through self-care utilizing Lifestyle Medicine principles. Her 7 pillars of health include a wholefood/plant-based diet, daily movement, restorative sleep, avoidance of risky behaviors (such as tobacco, excessive alcohol, drug use), stress management, social connection and daily exposure to nature and fresh air.

Dr. Sundermann currently practices medicine with IHA in Ann Arbor, Michigan where she is helping to launch the IHA Lifestyle Medicine Institute. She is also leads IHA Staywell Committee which focuses on optimizing the health and well-being for 3000 employees of IHA. She does her best to practice what she preaches and enjoys running, biking, hiking, skiing and spending time outdoors and creating adventures with her husband, 2 college-age children and 2 dogs. She is a 10x Boston Marathon finisher, 3x Full Ironman Triathlon finisher and currently training for several upcoming Ultramarathons.  She truly believes that age is just a number and is passionate about spreading this word to all of her patients, family and friends.

Links from Episode:

Dr. Sundermann's LinkedIn

Dr. Sundermann's Twitter

Dr. Sundermann's Instagram

Trinity Health/IHA Lifestyle Medicine

Lifestyle Medicine Washtenaw/Livingston Counties Facebook Group