Is Exercise Medicine?
Exercise is medicine. That’s what the medical dictionary tells us. In other words, it is the “medicine” part of the word. We see it all the time–in TV commercials, in magazine articles, in advertisements. “Injury is the cure, pain is the medicine.”
But what exactly is exercise? Exercise is simply activity that provides health and fitness, which may not be accompanied by relaxation, relief of pain, prevention or slowing of the aging process, improvement of functioning and wellness, and/or enhancement of one or more of the body’s systems (blood, lymph, liver, pancreas, etc.). Exercise is medicine in four primary ways: It reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke; improves the function and mobility of the musculoskeletal system; improves the antioxidant status of the body; and improves or aids recovery from injuries, disease, or conditions. And, of course, exercise is medicine for preventing and treating illness.
Exercise is a simple “mosaic” of action and reaction, so to speak. As such, it can be classified into three broad categories: exercise-based, exercise-controlled, and exercise-directed. Within each broad category, there are further subcategories: sports-based, balance and rehabilitative, and recreational. Exercise is used by nearly everyone in some way or another, so it is certainly important.
The question of the exercise being medicine is most often asked by those who have experienced injury or illness. Often they wish that they had exercised more. The question is not always asked, however, by those who do not suffer or know someone who does. Why is exercise considered medicine? Exercise is useful for those who need it, and the effects of exercise on the body can lead to improvement in health. It can improve many conditions, some of which are long term.
Exercise can lead to improvements in many diseases, especially cardiovascular disease. Exercise can prevent and decrease the severity of cardiovascular disease. And, for those who already have cardiovascular disease, exercise has been shown to lead to an improvement in the cardiovascular system and to a decreased risk of future cardiovascular disease.
But is exercise is medicine? The answer depends upon your definition of “better.” By that it means better than what you are now (which may not include any heart attacks you might have had during your youth). For some, exercise is something that is done for its own sake, without any hope of improving one’s health. For others, exercise is something that they do in order to improve their health.
Exercise can lead to improvement in other areas of the medical system as well. An increase in muscle mass has been shown to lead to an increased ability to move around. Exercise has also been shown to improve bone density and to reduce the risks of developing disorders associated with osteoporosis.
If you are beginning to wonder whether your current diet of processed, fatty foods and sugar, and a sedentary lifestyle are contributing to the cause of your health problems, exercise is something you should definitely consider. There are many forms of exercise, from walking, to swimming, to aerobic training, to yoga. The choice is up to you. Do some research, try different forms of exercise, and see what feels right for you. With a little bit of change, and a lot of exercise, many health problems can be improved.
As far as what type of exercise will best suit you, that answer varies. For some people, moderate exercise is enough to improve general health. For others, they need more in order to achieve their goals. Exercise can also help many to cope with anxiety and depression, as well as to maintain weight loss and to improve their physical well being. There are so many health benefits to be gained from regular exercise that it is hard to imagine any downside to it.
In the case of exercise, medicine is unnecessary. Many exercises, such as walking, don’t require a prescription. Other, more strenuous exercises, such as those done in aerobics classes, may require a prescription but are still a lot less expensive than surgery or supplements. For those who are healthy enough to exercise on their own, doing so regularly is enough to keep them in good physical condition.
Exercise is medicine taken to the extreme. In this case, it may be. While exercise does have many advantages for the body, it is not for everybody. Before starting out on any exercise regimen, check with your doctor first.