Exercise is Medicine
When people think of medicine, the main thing that comes to mind is a pill. Many medications come in pill form, but few people consider exercise as an important form of medication. And yet, exercise is one of the most powerful medicines in the treatment of many chronic diseases. Exercise is effective in the treatment of several different types of illnesses and injuries, and doctors often prescribe exercise as treatment. Exercise should also be viewed as a preventative medicine; it is the most powerful thing you can do to prevent the onset of many chronic illnesses.
What can exercise do for you?
Regular exercise has been shown to be as effective, or in many cases, even better than the use of medicine for chronic illness and diseases. Exercise is now included in most treatment plans for chronic diseases, such as in the treatment for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, hypertension, and high cholesterol. Exercise is included as part of most medical treatment plans because research categorically shows how effective it is for addressing and alleviating the underlying causes of chronic disease. By reducing or eliminating the underlying cause of the disease, exercise is a powerful treatment method.
Physical activity has many varied mechanisms through which it works as a medical intervention, which is dependent on the nature of the illness and the disease targeted. For example, in the case of type 2 diabetes, exercise assists in the regulation and control of blood glucose by improving the many health-related contributors to poor glycaemic control. These contributing factors include your cardiovascular risk profile, body composition, and cardiorespiratory fitness, all of which can be improved with regular, well-structured, and individually-targeted exercise.
The following video highlights the role of exercise in the treatment of cancer:
Exercise is also useful for assisting the body in repairing damaged tissue, especially after surgery. If you have been inactive for a prolonged period of time, exercise is critical to help you regain your mobility. If you don’t re-establish regular physical activity, you may never regain full mobility or range of motion. Physical therapy is very often prescribed as medicine, although for whatever reason, it is not often equated with undertaking exercise for long-term health benefits.
How can you use exercise as medicine?
In some cases, exercise can actually take the place of medication. For individuals with high blood pressure, structured physical activity has been shown to be a powerful treatment to lower your blood pressure to acceptable and ideal levels. Similarly, for individuals with high cholesterol, exercise and lifestyle changes boost your levels of "good" cholesterol (HDL), while lowering "unhealthy" cholesterol (LDL), returning your cholesterol levels to medically safe levels and decreasing your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Exercise is also vital to improve glycaemic control, which is useful for people with pre-diabetes, and those who have already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Research demonstrates that cardiovascular fitness training and strength training, combined with lifestyle changes, are more valuable than oral medications for the long-term control of blood sugar levels.
Some medications have side effects. Does exercise have side effects?
If you have taken any prescription medication, you have probably been warned about the negative side effects of the medication. If exercise is a form of medicine, then it stands to reason that exercise may have some side effects you need to know about.
The only negative side effects of exercise come from exercising incorrectly. More specifically, this means doing the wrong type of exercises for your body or your medical background, or exerting yourself beyond your physical capabilities which may cause injury. For example, performing some types of exercises incorrectly can cause you to tear a muscle or injure yourself in other ways. That is why it is critical to consult a tertiary-qualified exercise physiologist prior to the commencement of your exercise, to ensure you properly plan for exercise, and that you are provided with correct and accurate instructions on the right exercises for you. Avoid the common pitfalls experienced when people first begin an exercise routine - seek out the advice of an Accredited Exercise Physiologist.
Just like a doctor prescribes the right kind of medication for you, you too must perform the right exercises for your health status and your condition. For some conditions like type 2 diabetes, you will likely have other medical or musculoskeletal conditions that must be addressed appropriately when you have an exercise routine prescribed for you. Failure to address these other conditions can lead to injury, or further complications of your medical background. Conditions such as osteoarthritis result in limited joint mobility through parts of your body. Certain exercises can help your osteoarthitic condition, but other exercises will "stir it up" and cause you to be in more pain. If you or your exercise instructor get these details wrong, exercise can be counterproductive to improving your condition.
Some people may only need to engage in low-impact exercises, while others may need to focus on exercising certain muscle groups. For this reason, it is essential that you consult with an Inspire Fitness Exercise Physiologist for safe and effective results. We have specialised skills and advanced training that enables us to provide current best practice by tailoring an exercise program to suit your needs. Just like any medication exercise needs to be taken in the right doses, you have to do the right type of exercises to treat your condition for the best possible results.