Partner Content – Exercise is Medicine

Sarah Sowards, Club Fit Experience Assistant

What would you be willing to do to obtain a treatment that could help prevent the following: type two diabetes, dementia, pulmonary disease, hypertension, heart failure, cystic fibrosis, hyperlipidemia, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, asthma, depression, anxiety, obesity, Parkinson’s, and many more? What if this treatment could also make you happier, less stressed, increase your sleep quality, and help you live longer? Would you invest in research for this treatment? Would you ask your doctor to prescribe it for you?

Well…they have been, for centuries. Hippocrates himself wrote two books outlining the case for using this “treatment” to maintain one’s health (Berryman, 2010). Countless studies in years since have also demonstrated evidence that this treatment is ridiculously good for you, with its effects improving almost all aspects of your life. Fortunately for us, this treatment is easily accessible to everyone. Would you be willing to try it? If so, we will see you soon because this treatment is not a vitamin or medication – it’s exercise!

We understand that life can easily get in the way of a consistent exercise routine. However, we would like to take a moment to discuss just how critical frequent physical activity is for one’s overall health and longevity. According to the World Health Organization, lifestyle factors (exercise, diet, substance use, stress levels) can explain as much as 70% of disease burden. The Aging Research Group reported 55% of diseases in those 60 years of age or older were preventable through certain lifestyle changes, in particular increasing one’s physical activity (Ohrnberger et al., 2017). One in ten premature deaths in the world are related to lack of exercise, a statistic that is almost identical to deaths related to smoking (Thompson et al., 2020). Considering we have the ability to make time to exercise, thereby preventing and reducing a large percentage of disease burden, why are we not exercising more? Why are we not prioritizing it and making the time? An overwhelming amount of research clearly indicates physical activity is essential to our health – we know how great it is for us!

A longitudinal study done at the Aerobic Center found that fitness improvements, specifically those in cardiorespiratory fitness, showed a greater effect on the longevity of those with diabetes, even when compared to pharmacological interventions. A meta-analysis examining the relevant literature established that when compared to actual medications, exercise was just as effective in preventing heart disease and diabetes and treating heart failure; exercise was more effective than drugs for helping rehabilitate stroke survivors. JAMA Internal Medicine even declared, “There is no medication treatment that can influence as many organ systems in a positive manner as can physical activity,” (Thompson et al., 2020).

Your doctor can lecture you at every visit. I can communicate every research finding out there. Your spouse can remind you; your children and friends can encourage you, but ultimately, YOU are responsible for your own health. So, no more excuses. Let’s take our medicine – let’s take care of ourselves. Let’s lift some weights, get the cardio in, take a class, go for a swim… Whatever it is, let’s do it. Exercise is medicine – I’ll be taking mine, and I sincerely hope you take yours too. We’ll see you out there!

Berryman, J. W. (2010). Exercise is Medicine: A Historical Perspective. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 9(4), 1-7.

Ohrnberger, J., Fichera, E., & Sutton, M. (2017). The relationship between physical and mental health: A mediation analysis. Social Science & Medicine, 195, 42-49.

Pedersen, B. K., & Saltin, B. (2015). Exercise as medicine – evidence for prescribing exercise as therapy in 26 different chronic diseases. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sport

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About the Author: Sarah Sowards