Why exercise is medicine

Pio Solon

THIS article is inspired by our clients who are referred by various medical practitioners with the goal of improving their health and well-being across different age groups. Our facility receives referrals typically from orthopaedic practitioners with regard to recovery from musculoskeletal injuries. But for the past few months, we’ve been receiving clients who doctors refer for exercise with the goal of improving blood sugar and even cardiac health. Ten years ago, this wouldn’t have been the norm as the idea that exercise could be used as an intervention to improve markers of disease was still budding (at least in our country).

So, what do we know now that we didn’t know then? Well, we knew that exercise is good, but as the body of exercise science has been expanding, we are starting to learn more mechanisms, and why exercise is good for us, here are some examples:

  1. We knew that aerobic exercise is good for the heart. Resistance training? We knew it was good for the bones and muscle. But for the heart? A meta-analysis conducted in Brazil by de Sousa (et al, 2017) has shown that resistance training alone reduces blood pressure for prehypertensive and hypertensive patients.

  2. Eating a healthy diet and exercising during pregnancy isn’t just good for the developing baby. It also decreases the chances of having a Cesarean-section delivery. Overall, healthy habits reduced the risk of needing a C-section by about 10 percent (Thangaratinam et al, 2017). A healthy lifestyle also reduced a woman’s risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy—known as gestational diabetes—by 24 percent, the findings showed.

  3. What are you waiting for to exercise? Ah, for those who are unconvinced, did you know that obesity puts individuals at risk for at least 30 chronic health conditions? Yikes!

  4. The truth with diet is that so many ethnic populations subsist on a high fat diet (think Eskimos) and some on a high carb diet (some tribes that subsist on sweet potatoes) and both have fairly good health outcomes, good BMI scores, low incidence of heart disease, obesity, diabetes etc. So it doesn’t seem like it’s a high-carb thing or a low-carb thing. But these populations eat whole un-processed food. No need to vegan either as well, although it’s good to get majority of your food from fruit and vegetable sources.

I hope you all learned something today. The field of exercise is growing, and as we grow we know more and more about how to utilize exercise as a tool to impact better health.