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Exercise is Medicine: Prevention as the Cure

North American Population is Not Getting Enough Physical Activity

Exercise is MedicineIf you’re reading this article, you probably already are aware of the health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle. You may  also already know that, now more than ever, our North American population is not getting enough physical activity.

Most experts agree (and the science has shown time and time again) that our risk of developing conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease can be mitigated by a low-cost, simple intervention: movement. I may not be a health expert–I don’t have an MD or a PhD behind my name–but I am comfortable in saying that nearly every health issue out there is positively affected by physical activity. Whether it’s osteoporosis or anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome or Alzheimer’s, exercise, if not providing an outright cure, is integral in the treatment and prevention of most health conditions.

So, why are we not being prescribed exercise as treatment?

This very question is what inspired the formation of the Exercise is Movement® initiative. Based out of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), their team of doctors and fitness experts have come together to realize an exercise prescription strategy for nearly every person in North America. Their vision, as stated on their website, “is to make physical activity assessment and promotion a standard in clinical care, connecting health care with evidence-based physical activity resources for people everywhere and of all abilities.”

Exercise before Drugs

The initiative was largely born out of what the ACSM saw as a deficiency of the medical profession. More and more drugs are being prescribed for the treatment of diseases that might be safely and effectively managed by an increase in physical activity. To offer a two-pronged treatment plan–with medication working in conjunction with an exercise prescription–can be more effective than just medication. Their vision is for healthcare practitioners on the front-lines of care to be able to responsibly prescribe an exercise specialist or fitness professional who can guide their patient through the details of a fitness plan suited to their individual needs.

As they argue, medical adherence is very low, with over two thirds of medications not being taken as prescribed. They argue that by solely prescribing medications, the responsibility for patient health is transferred to the doctor, which results in lower exercise rates for patients. As Robert Sallis, the chair of the EIM Advisory Board, asks, “If we are able to convince patients to take insulin shots, Coumadin, chemotherapy, etc – why not exercise?”

A Global Team for Exercise

Central to the success of the EIM is the merging of the medical and fitness professions. To this end, the EIM has strategized to bring together a global network of healthcare and fitness professionals, including physicians, therapists, personal trainers and coaches, who are dedicated to the promotion of physical activity for all people. The organization offers resources, such as webinars and articles, for exercise professionals, including an EIM certification course, for professionals all over the world.

The Future of Exercise and Medicine

One belief that I have held for many years is that doctors should be able to prescribe personal trainers and coaches to their patients in the same way that they prescribe drugs. I don’t believe I am alone in my hope that in the future (and sooner rather than later), governing authorities will view exercise as equally essential to life as they do critical drug interventions. Exercise is inexpensive (especially in comparison to drugs), accessible, and, most importantly, empowering. The integration of medicine and fitness would mean that those individuals struggling with their health would receive responsible, effective, and comprehensive support to help them live long and healthy lives.

Wishing you all the best on your journey to optimum health!

Written by Theresa Faulder, Master’s in English, Certified Personal Trainer and Infofit fitness blog writer.

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