Celebrate Exercise is Medicine Month


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
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The American College of Sports Medicine declared May as Exercise is Medicine month. The idea is for physicians and other health care providers to take time to educate their patients regarding the benefits of exercise, in addition to recommending activity to their patients as part of their treatment plan.

While participating in exercise is not a guarantee in protecting us from disease, studies have shown that it may prevent heart disease, some cancers and other chronic conditions such as osteoporosis. Not only does exercise keep our bodies more physically fit, but there are huge psychological benefits as well. Exercise can even help us cope more efficiently in times of stress.

Unfortunately for many of us, exercise is not a priority in our lives and it seems to be the case for our kids, too. According to the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA), “63 percent of children are not physically active by the time they reach high school.” If this is truly the case then it should not be too surprising that as our kid’s activity falls as they grow older, there is a good chance they won’t be active in their adult years.

On Monday, May 3rd a coalition of experts and organizations including the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the American College of Sports Medicine released the first U.S. National Physical Activity Plan to helps us all become more active in our daily lives, whether at home or on the job.

The coalition hopes that by bringing together the leaders of business, education, transportation, public health and other sectors, we can move this country from one of laziness to one where we embrace being active in everything that we do. Although exercise can’t cure all our ills, it can make a tremendous difference in our lifestyle and how we feel. Whether we view exercise as medicine or just a way to feel better, it should be a part of each of our lives.

What reasons do you think we, as a country, don’t exercise? Do you think having your doctor sit down and discuss the benefits of exercise with you would encourage you to exercise? Do you think this new plan will help change the health direction for our country?

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    Great article! As a physical therapist I know how important exercise is not only to minimize weight but improve joint and cardiovascular health. Why don't people exercise? We are all creatures of habit and many never had regular exercise built into their routine at an early age. Other issues are time and not knowing exactly what to do. Unfortunately, I would imagine that physicians are not any better at including exercise into their daily lives. Many are over worked and also don't make it a priority. What we do know is that if America does not start exercising, obesity rates will continue to soar as will diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and other health issues that accompany weight gain.

    ~JTrempe PT, ATC

    - 7/24/2010   10:31:52 AM
  • 77
    I think people don't exercise b/c they convince themselves they are too busy. People now truly do overextend themselves and they find it hard to fit exercise into an already over loaded schedule. - 5/20/2010   11:36:14 PM
  • 76
    What reasons do you think we, as a country, don’t exercise? We have become a society of increasingly spoiled and self-indulgent people.

    Do you think having your doctor sit down and discuss the benefits of exercise with you would encourage you to exercise? Only if that doctor is also willing to tell it like it is in regards to the risks a patient is taking by not upping their activity. I know from experience that doctor's just aren't bringing up weight as an issue or as the cause of other issues. Until Doc's are more willing to upset their pateients by telling them their true problem it won't do any good to urge exercise.

    Do you think this new plan will help change the health direction for our country?
    I like to think so. But having worked in a few medical offices I know the doctor recommendations often go unheeded. That won't stop the patient from complaining that they still feel crappy and it won't stop them from blaming the doctor for their health not improving. Until more Americans are willing to use their brains and take on some PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY there will be no change.

    - 5/13/2010   11:58:38 AM
    About 20 years ago, a doctor told me that I led a "sedentary life" and I have never forgotten it! My hobbies were things like needle work, reading, movies. I didn't exercise on a regular basis or play sports. I was convinced that I wasn't good at anything, so never got involved in sports.

    Now, I love riding bikes with my family-have completed 3 157-mile road classics in the mountains. I still have to force myself to exercise regularly-don't know why such a mental block. But we finally have something that we all like to do-separately and together. Don't know why it took me so long.

    I think doctors should encourage exercise, and be honest with their patients. Any time I'm becoming a "slug" I remember what the doc said to me those years ago. It really motivates me to do more! - 5/12/2010   2:08:53 PM
  • 74
    I really like the idea of having a film highlighting the benefits of exercise playing in the waiting room or in the examining room while you are waiting for the doctor. - 5/11/2010   6:52:13 AM
    At our doctors' office, you fill in a form before a physical / annual exam. One of the questions is about exercise (frequency, intensity, duration). My doctor will comment on it (something like "I see you exercise 3 times a week, that's good. If you want to lose weight, you might try increasing to 4" - and more if I have specific questions). I don't know what she would say to someone who doesn't exercise, but I would hope it would at least be mentioned as beneficial to health! - 5/10/2010   9:48:40 PM
  • 72
    For those of us that exercise, we don't need to use our alotted minutes with the Dr. discussing exercise benefits. The Dr. should be able to tell which patients need that talk. I wouldn't mind a film running in the waiting area discussing this but, really if your not interested about exercising---not sure any of this would help those who need it most. - 5/10/2010   5:06:57 PM
  • 71
    Too many cars, not enough places to walk that aren't dangerous because of the cars. Too much suburbia with the shopping miles from where one lives. Too many conveniences that have made exercise obsolete such as leaf blowers instead of rakes, riding mowers instead of non-motorized push mowers. We need a complete mind-set shift. Many the horrible economy will have one positive outcome in that people will start relying more on their muscles, and less on the next expensive gizmo that will do their work for them. Maybe people will make the effort to grow their own food and buy fewer costly items shipped from thousands of miles away. Maybe we will return to being a more self-reliant population once again. - 5/10/2010   1:03:50 PM
  • 70
    Instead of the doctor wasting time talking to patients in his/her office, they need a FILM running in the waiting room that would educate the patients as a whole. - 5/10/2010   12:25:55 PM
  • 69
    I have been thinking of exercise mainly as "enjoyable movement", the more enjoyable the better. Which isn't a wrong way to think about it.

    Way to go if you want to get heavy into yoga, which I have been doing over the past 3 years.

    But, as my goals shift and change, I find I can parse a movement session.

    I have an old workout routine of my own that I uncovered. The toning and muscle endurance part of it takes 10 to 25 minutes.

    Well, I found it grueling. Amazing what the difference is between isometric strength (the kind yoga builds) and isotonic strength (most all the other, more traditional, kinds of Exercise) ... No matter how I ate, my body readily took to isotonic regimens. (I am fortunate in that, at my age, only my upper legs bulk up with the latter.)

    And how weak a trial with that old workout makes me feel. Not the masterful aerobicizer I remembered myself being ...

    And yoga instructors are not stupid—but, still, they don't care to advise—unless you cross train with isotonic exercises, you reach a strength plateau really quickly. If you have open joints, this is no problem because you could be challenged in fifty zillion other ways.

    My joints are not open enough for all that much of that, so I'm gonna make sure the Cross Train doesn't leave the station without me! - 5/10/2010   12:21:52 PM
    Exercise should be a natural part of our day. The issue in the US is that everything is too convenient. We drive everywhere, and walking and riding a bike anywhere seems dangerous in most communites due to lack of bike lanes and sidewalks. Communites are no longer as active as before so our kids restrict themselves to the house. It is unfortunate, but it has become "work" to exercise. It needs to be a concious decsion made by each individual. Not sure the new program will work, but maybe of years and years or promoting exercise, the next generation will get the message. - 5/10/2010   11:19:33 AM
  • 67
    I think the reason we don't exercise is that most people don't think they have the time to exercise. A lot of people just don't make the time - I was one for a long time. Forms of exercise play an additional role because not everyone can afford a gym or exercise equipment. Yes, walking is free, except that you should buy shoes. There are also other inexpensive ways to get exercise, but they aren't for everyone. It takes time to find what works best for avoiding boredom. - 5/10/2010   10:26:35 AM
  • 66
    I think the reason we, as a country, do not exercise is that we, as a country, work too hard and too long. Most employers do NOT encourage time for fitness. They want their workers to sit down at that desk and work the day away. With the increase in layoffs across the board, most workers are also working unpaid overtime to get their jobs done, since they now do the work that used to be handled by three or more people. With the average family having two working adults, the evenings are no breeze, either. By the time couples get home, they're already exhausted.

    I don't think having doctors talk to patients is the answer. I think having doctors talk to *employers* would be more effective. Show employers how much productivity they are losing and they might change their attitudes. - 5/10/2010   9:46:59 AM
  • 65
    I got my cholestrol down by 47 pts. due to increased exercise, eating oatmeal and losing almost 20 lbs. in 4 mos. My doctor had tried to get me on meds but it's MY BODY I have to live with and I have heard horror stories about when people try to GET OFF meds! - 5/10/2010   12:41:24 AM
    I'm blessed to live in a very active community - Boulder, Colorado. One of the key events in our community is the yearly Bolder Boulder 10K race on Memorial Day. Last year we had 53,000 citizens register to run/jog/walk the race! It's an amazing event and makes me proud of our community. Lots of people from outside Colorado come to participate in the race. And there's a special emphasis on the local Middle Schools - they have their own waves and are encouraged to train and run or walk the race. Having an event like this, and spreading it to our children, is something that could help other communities. - 5/9/2010   11:31:24 PM
  • 63
    May 14th is ride/walk to work day. Please join me in the fun. - 5/9/2010   10:50:55 PM
  • 62
    I am currently using exercise as medicine! I came off of my lexapro about a month ago and have been trying to jog regularly to make up for it. It seems to be working. And I think that on days I don't exercise I'm less well. :) - 5/9/2010   7:35:21 PM
  • 61
    For two years I worked for a surgeon who rode his bike to work EVERY day in Michigan, regardless of the weather. My next job was for a cardiology researcher who ran to and from work every day. During those 6 years, I was encouraged by their examples, and I lost 60 pounds and kept them off for more than 5 years. I walked more by parking farther from the office, and I climbed stairs more instead of taking the elevator, and it made a difference. - 5/9/2010   7:04:20 PM
  • 60
    I agree with those who commented on the cultural changes that moved most of our work from physical labor to desk jobs, eliminated sidewalks in many places & spread out our communities until one needed a car to run basic errands in them. We are fighting some of those changes in my little town now - sidewalks are crumbling & going missing. Kids can physically walk to & fromschool so far as distance, but many parents are afraid to let them, both because of walking in streets & fear of possible perverts so common in the news. A number of us do walk to work or do errands here, but most are out of the habit, or convinced they "can't" - it's too cold in winter, too hot in summer, their knees or their ticker or whatnot they think precludes exercise because they no longer can do everything they once did. Such thoughts used to stop me, too. Now I watch the time of day I walk & match it with the best weather - early morn in summer, lunch time in winter. I wear coats, sometimes several. I use a rollator to help walk, & when my knees, ankles or whatnot swell up too much to walk, I swim. I wave to everybody & wear bright red, stop & chat to folk along the way & have much fuller, happier life than I used to when I let my infirmities - which are considerable - talk me out of activity. Find out what you can do, & do that. Refuse to use modern "conveniences" you don't really need & your body doesn't want - I wash my own dishes, grow a good bit of my own food & hang my clothes to dry, saving money & fossil fuel plus getting mild exercise & a look at God's beautiful creation each day to boot. If enough of us demonstrate that this kind of lifestyle works, even today, others may join us & be saved from boring & unhealthy inactivity. - 5/9/2010   5:36:47 PM
  • 59
    While it certainly is a step in the right direction to have doctors educate their patients about exercise, the truth is that many people in North America live in areas where it is not easy to simply go for a walk or bike ride, or even make it to the gym; many neighborhoods are too dangerous for that, or planned only for cars. - 5/9/2010   5:35:28 PM
  • 58
    I think we all got spoiled-cars to drive us, subways to take us here and there, and also living in 'country' areas where it's not easy to walk for our daily activities and tasks- all this keeps us inactive. Drive thrus and drive-ins don't help either! - 5/9/2010   4:18:39 PM
  • 57
    In some cases it is not always a question of laziness. There will always be those that can't exercise due to illness or at least not exercise as often as they would like. It is great for those of you who are and who can do it but I think it is very wrong for everyone to be labelled as lazy who do not! Those of you who do use the word lazy are maybe referring to people whom you know to be just that but rest assured there are those of us who are certainly NOT lazy and who would love to exercise regulalry but for whatever reason cannot! - 5/9/2010   2:23:19 PM
  • 56
    I think that the ONLY reason people do not exercise is simple laziness. Everything else is just an excuse. I used them also in the past; it hurt, I didn't have time, I was to heavy, I had bad knees, etc. I still have people tell me they can't even walk because they have bad knees. I look them right in the eye and tell them I have advanced arthritis in BOTH knees PLUS COPD from 40 years of smoking. I just brought home my first award from a 5K...I took second in my age group among the women. It did not happen overnight, but it DID happen. Even those in wheelchairs can do SOMETHING. - 5/9/2010   1:52:57 PM
  • 55
    I think many people simply don't prioritize themselves in their busy lives. Personally I think of exercise as an insurance policy. Every day I exercise I make a deposit into my long term physical and mental health. Exercise allows me to take better care of myself, which in turn helps me take care of my husband, friends, and job. - 5/9/2010   1:45:18 PM
  • 54
    For me, exercise is better than Prozac (and cheaper, too). - 5/9/2010   1:06:39 PM
  • 53
    People that don't exercise let time rob them - spend too much time on computers, in front of tv, etc... Those that do exercise probably shut the tv off and leave the computers for the office... We all live and learn what is important - we each have to realize that for ourselves. - 5/9/2010   1:01:42 PM
  • 52
    EXERCISE is part of my every day life!!THAT`S IT!!! - 5/9/2010   12:47:50 PM
  • 51
    I personally believe that once you find a passion in an exercise program, exercise will and does become a priority in your own life. Exercise was never fun or exciting for me, until I found my passion in Kickboxing and strength training. The high I experience after a hard long workout is amazing. I live for my Saturday workout which I have to tell myself to stop after 105 minutes. I want to keep going like an "Energizer Rabbit". So I always suggest to people try Sparks 10 videos and keep trying a new workout until you yourself find the passion in a workout that you can't wait to wake up and do each day.
    - 5/9/2010   12:00:03 PM
  • 50
    My doctor swears by exercise & sets an example for his patience by setting aside time to jog outdoors every day. - 5/9/2010   11:38:14 AM
    I am a nutritionist and I try to practice what I preach, encouraging participants to engage in physical activity daily. I do believe that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. - 5/9/2010   11:12:15 AM
  • 48
    I love to exercise, it makes me feel a whole lot better, I love the way I look, when I'm fit, and the health benefits are awesome. I do participate in a class, and love the social interaction as well. We all need to keep moving! - 5/9/2010   11:03:42 AM
    I am a doctor. I regularly talk to people about exercise. Discussing the health benefits doesn't help much. Most people know that. What does help is trying to figure out what they are willing and able to do and getting them to make some kind of time commitment, even a very small one. The American cancer society has given us some prescriptions to use to record this commitment. I think it is very helpful. It has a place for current weight and weight loss goal. It has a check off for diet changes. Their choices are less fat, less sugar, more fruits and veggies and I will see a dietcian. It has a check off for exercise. I will do _______ ______ times a week for _____ time. The smaller time commitment they are willing to make, the more times a week I encourage them to exercise. - 5/9/2010   10:50:34 AM
  • 46
    Because of my running I was able to get rid of my anti-anxiety med and I am absolutely giddy! Not once have I even come close to having to go back on. Woot! My blood pressure is normal and my lipid profile numbers are dropping. Woot! - 5/9/2010   10:39:22 AM
    When I exercise I feel good -- so I will keep at my current pace. - 5/9/2010   10:31:23 AM
  • 44
    We need to concentrate more on preventative health care rather than remedial health care. In the same way it is easier to help a child who is struggling to learn to read at that moment rather than waiting and doing remediation later, we need health care professionals trained and using preventive health care including assisting with diet, exercise and emotional health programs. I know that when my doctor said to cut down on carbs as I was approaching diabetic blood counts, I worked hard and now have no incipient diabetes worries... much cheaper than insulin! - 5/9/2010   10:26:00 AM
    Television, cars, busy-ness, overcoming the intertia before one gets in the routine of exercising all contribute. I think it would help for doctors to include exercise as part of his/her patient's treatment, and to recommend joining a SparkPeople team that his/her office starts! - 5/9/2010   10:05:41 AM
  • 42
    It was a doctor who got me started on exercise, and I will forever be grateful to her. For the first time in my life, I started exercising regularly. That was thirteen years ago, and I'm more committed to exercise than ever. - 5/9/2010   10:04:46 AM
  • 41
    Everyone at work tells me they dont have time to workout... I get up at 230am to workout before going to work, I work 12 hr days and if needed have to work over and/or come in early the next day, I work 7-7pm and I travel over an hour to work...
    to me exercise is very important... its scheduled into my day, I get up, exercise.. then go on with my day.. period... its been that way for almost two years now.. and I know I can not stop... its a committment to me.... so that I can keep working.. I have a illness that working out helps me... this week alone I have worked 7 days straight, 6-days for 77 hrs and today will be my 7th and its looking like a 16 hr day and I am finally off for two days.. yes...
    Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there!! - 5/9/2010   9:59:04 AM
  • 40
    I think one reason is our car culture that built suburbs that are spread out from the things we need to get to. Where once we had sidewalks there are none. It's a long and unshaded, not to mention noisy and possibly dangerous walk along roads with heavy traffic to shop or take care of other errands. Where once physical activity was a natural part of the day, it's now something that must be "added in" in an unnaturalistic way. Clothes are no longer hung on the line, rugs are no longer beaten and so on.

    A commute used to be a walk to work or even a trolley stop or intercity rail. Now it can be hours in a car, train or even plane each way. Time and our freedom of movement has been stolen in many ways from us by the broader mobility of our culture.

    Newer communities developments are rethinking the spread-out suburb. They bring back some of the small town feel with city centers, limit street sizes. They even sometimes restrict vehicles by requiring parking at the edge of the community. It thinks greener, encourages walking and a greater sense of community. - 5/9/2010   9:32:41 AM
  • 39
    Exercise - or simply being active - is something best incorporated into one's life as a child. Today, kids socialize via the computer & c-phones. They don't 'play' - active, social behaviour, outdoors, with their friends. They don't ride their bikes "until the street lights come on".

    They may engage in organized sports - mom or dad driving them to baseball, soccer, hockey, whatever - but they don't spontaneously get outside & just 'do' things. And unless they are good athletes, many quit the organized sports by the time they are teens...

    So exercise - or simply doing active things - does not become integrated into their lives. Face to face socialization is not 'normal' any more. Many kids will define their 'friends' as people they have never met anywhere but on the computer.

    We are growing a generation of people who will be less active than we are/were & that is not healthy. So, yes, doctors (& others) really do need to educate people to the benefits of being active. - 5/9/2010   8:29:31 AM
  • 38
    Re: comment 37........I have definitely seen obese landscapers. They are SITTING on those big lawnmowers all day! - 5/9/2010   8:03:41 AM
  • 37
    Exercise never WAS a priority for our society/country. What changed is that most people no longer work in manual labor jobs that have them swinging a hammer, hauling heavy items, or keeping constantly on the move. I can tell you that I've never met an obese farm laborer, construction worker, or landscaper --they stay in good shape because their job doesn't allow them a chance to gain weight. We also went from walking or riding a bike or horse to our workplaces, to driving there, which removes even more activity from our day.

    So it's not like we stopped exercising. We just stopped working physically, and now in the last 40 years or so, we've had to START exercising. - 5/9/2010   7:54:54 AM
  • 36
    What reasons do you think we, as a country, don’t exercise?
    .....the most common excuse I hear is no time

    Do you think having your doctor sit down and discuss the benefits of exercise with you would encourage you to exercise?
    .....I don't think it would hurt and it may help if he or she can really get across to the patient the long-term health benefits

    Do you think this new plan will help change the health direction for our country?
    ....It's a start and every great movement/change has to begin somewhere
    - 5/9/2010   12:38:28 AM
  • 35
    From my own personal experience I know my mom and daughters thought I could walk instead of driving a car to find work or to go for coffee or do my shopping. They however always drove their own cars and refused to walk themselves. This was discouraging to me because while they advised exercise they didn't do it themselves, thereby setting a poor example to follow. - 5/9/2010   12:37:01 AM
  • 34
    I grew up with a mother who never wanted me and my brother to get dirty. She didn't like us to sweat so exercise was NEVER something we were rewarded for doing. I think that is a real issue still for me, as I don't see it as something I'm good at since I was never encouraged to do it. I was always thin since we were never allowed to eat between meals and we didn't have Junk Food. Now people flaunt how fat they are and it is just sad. Bragging about a "Muffin Top" and "Bra fat" just isn't funny, but it does SELL lots of clothes, so that is the issue. - 5/9/2010   12:31:11 AM
  • 33
    I used to walk everywhere when I was a kid/teen on sidewalks. There are hardly any around us. My son has to get a ride to school because I won't let him walk/ride his bike in the street. He's at the age where "mom walking him to school" is not very cool. : ) - 5/8/2010   11:16:50 PM
  • 32
    Human lifestyles have changed a lot in the last hundred years. We didn't use to have to work so hard at getting exercise because most of us lived off the land until a hundred years ago, and got our exercise just producing enough to eat, preparing it, and making things that we can now just go out and buy.

    A hundred years isn't much time for a whole culture to adapt to such a different way of living, and it shows. Many of us sit in office chairs most of the day, and modern conveniences save us from much of the physical labor we would have had to do just to get by. We have to consciously think about getting exercise, and that's a pretty new thing. Some employers offer gyms and programs to encourage their employees to stay fit, but most still don't. Gas is still cheap (relative to the rest of the world), and food is relatively abundant here in the U.S., especially processed foods high in salt, fat, and sugar.

    We have to fight our biological programming to stay healthy: we have to eat less than what is available, deny ourselves foods that we are pre-programmed to crave, and artificially create physical challenges for ourselves beyond what's absolutely necessary to get by in our day-to-day lives. We haven't all adapted to this yet. - 5/8/2010   11:05:16 PM
  • 31
    It could be a mind thing........one should'nt have to wait until a "doc" says you have to exercise......if you care about your health......you would do...with in your limits....whatever it is to be on the healthy road. - 5/8/2010   9:44:54 PM
  • 30
    Schools and colleges need to lead the way in educating students and the public on the health benefits of exercise. Schools also should lead the way as places where people can get fit conveniently and at low cost. The pulic already pays taxes to build those facilities, and aside from the time when student or school activities are being held, those facilities could be hosting community exercise or activities - exercise classes, "family fitness" events, play days, etc. Schools have fields, tracks, gyms, weight rooms, pools and other activity rooms- those should be used to the max to promote community fitness! - 5/8/2010   9:22:07 PM
  • 29
    Unfortunately the medical community has never been proactive when it comes to incorporating physical activity into a treatment plan. As a society we have come to prefer the simplicity and convenience of a prescription or diet rather than expending a little more time and effort on physical activity. Lastly, our kids (and adults) will have to learn to get up from the TV and computer and put down the iphones which seem to have a mesmerizing effect. This will certainly be an uphill battle. - 5/8/2010   8:11:39 PM

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