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Healthy Living - WABI


Exercise is Medicine

Jonathan P. Wood, MD(1)Exercise is Medicine®
Dr. Jonathan Wood
Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What does that mean?  “Exercise is medicine”…?

We think of medicine as something that:

  • You take to makes you feel better when you are ill (e.g. pharmaceuticals, etc)
  • You get when pills don’t work to cures illness (e.g. surgery, angioplasty, etc)
  • You get to prevent or detect illness or disease (e.g. immunizations, mammograms, etc)

What if there was something that was repeatedly shown to do all three? 

Wouldn’t we call it “medicine”?

Improving our fitness has been repeatedly shown to do all three!  So - - exercise is medicine.

This concept is the focus of a recent initiative by the American College of Sports Medicine appropriately called “Exercise is Medicine." Their goal is to raise awareness of the facts and emphasize the proven benefits of improved fitness on overall health and specifically on the treatment and prevention of chronic diseases. The World Health Organization’s most recent Global Health Risks data (2004) rates physical inactivity as the fourth leading cause of death globally behind high blood pressure, tobacco use, and high blood glucose. Many feel we are in the midst of an “inactivity epidemic," but few in the United States are truly aware of this.

Some facts that you might not know:

  • Older adolescents and adults spend almost 8 hours/day in sedentary behaviors
  • 36 percent of adults engage in no leisure-time activity at all
  • Low levels of fitness pose a bigger risk of death than mild-to-moderate obesity
  • Active people in their 80’s have a lower risk of death than inactive people in their 60’s
  • Low levels of physical activity expose patients to greater risk of dying than smoking, obesity, hypertension, or high cholesterol
  • Regular physical activity has been shown in several studies to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases by alarming amounts:
    • Colon cancer – over 60 percent reduction
    • Stroke – 27 percent reduction
    • Heart disease and high blood pressure – almost 40 percent reduction
    • Type II diabetes – 58 percent reduction
    • Alzheimer’s disease – almost 40 percent reduction
    • and there is much more…

Additionally, regular physical activity in adolescents has been shown to lead to higher SAT scores and for younger children, it results in improved classroom behavior and less discipline issues in elementary schools.

So, again, not only is exercise medicine, it seems to be better than what most of us traditionally think of as “medicine.” 

Use the medicine!  It may not always be easy, but it sure seems to be worth it!

For more info and some specific suggestions, please visit the Exercise is Medicine® website:

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