Exercise is medicine: A Prescription for a Healthier Life

In the current world where a sedentary lifestyle and desk-bound jobs have become the “norm”, the importance of regular exercise cannot be overstated. The phrase “Exercise is Medicine” captures the idea that physical activity is not just beneficial for achieving fitness goals or a healthy weight; rather, it is a useful prescription for overall well-being. 

One of the basic elements of human beings is their ability to engage in physical activity, which ranges from manual work to recreation. From an early age we learn motor skills such as walking, griping and bending. These skills are developed over the course of our lives, based on job requirements and activities we perform to entertain ourselves, but they can also deteriorate if they are not maintained.

As individuals age and participate in fewer activities compared to their youth, such as outdoor activities, ball games, tree climbing or playing with toys, concerns about diminishing independence and quality of life may arise. The gradual decline in autonomy is a consequence of the aging process, leading to a reduction in strength, muscle mass and flexibility needed for everyday tasks, unless proactive efforts are made to sustain these capabilities.  

Within the healthcare domain, ample data supports the efficacy of exercise prescription in enhancing the quality of life. However, it is frequently perceived as a secondary or tertiary intervention in comparison to medical treatments. Gradually, there is a growing recognition of the significance of exercise, and people are becoming more informed about the importance of staying active in ways that bring them enjoyment. Physiologically, exercise acts as a stressor, prompting the body’s tissues to adapt, strengthen, and become more efficient in addressing the demands of daily life.

The advantages of exercise observed in both individuals with chronic conditions and overall well-being encompass: 

  • Prolongs the duration of life without disability 
  • Enhances metabolic function, reducing the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
  • Boosts physical functioning and overall quality of life 
  • Extends lifespan and alleviates disability in certain conditions, while also aiding in the management of various health issues (Based on information from the ACSM’s fourth edition).

Despite the evident advantages, there are certain obstacles to exercise stemming from the healthcare system. These barriers include the ease of prescribing medications, challenges in educating patients of lifestyle changes, frequently low adherence to exercise regimens, and inadequate funding for exercise management within societies and health systems for the broader population. 

These challenges empathise the critical importance of discovering an enjoyable and sustainable form of exercise. Understanding your motivation for exercise and reinforcing it regularly becomes paramount.

It is essential to note that while exercise is not a replacement for medication in numerous conditions, it significantly contributes to the management and overall improvement of health outcomes, including disease prevention.

References

Sallis, R., 2008. Exercise is medicine and physicians need to prescribe it!. British journal of sports medicine.

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