We all know that exercise is good for our health, but what exactly does it mean to use exercise as medicine? Research has shown that exercise can help to prevent and manage chronic diseases and conditions. In many cases, with physician supervision, it can be used instead of or in conjunction with medication to maximize health benefits.

How Can Exercise be Used as Medicine?

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) launched the Exercise is Medicine (EIM) initiative to emphasize the importance of physical activity on our overall health. While physical fitness is important for improving athletic performance, preventing injury, and building muscle, its benefits go far beyond this. Exercise is key for preventing and managing diseases like cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Research shows it can also help manage bone and joint health, mental health, cognitive function, and sleep (ACSM Guidelines). The focus of the EIM initiative “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 is Medicine). Make it a priority to review your current exercise levels with your physician and discuss how you can incorporate physical activity as part of your prevention and treatment plans. It is a cost-effective way to take charge of your health.

How Much Exercise is Needed for Health Benefits?

The great news is that you don’t need to spend all day at the gym to receive the benefits. First, aim to reduce your sitting time and move more throughout the day. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “any amount of physical activity has some health benefits.” Evidence shows that exercise has immediate advantages, such as lower blood pressure, decreased anxiety, and better insulin sensitivity. For maximum health benefits, it is encouraged to work up to 150 minutes of moderately intense cardio exercise plus at least two days of strength training (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition). Cardio exercises aim to raise the heart rate for an extended period of time with activities like walking, hiking, bike riding, and jogging. Strength exercises focus on specific muscle groups and involve weights, resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises. Start with activities that you find interesting, and aim for regular movement in your week.

Adequate physical activity is a vital part of maintaining health and wellness. Talk with your doctor today about adding exercise to your healthcare routine and treatment plans. Ask for recommendations and referrals to exercise programs and professionals that are certified and qualified.

Always consult with your physician before starting a new exercise program.

Written by BWS Lead Health Coach- Kelly Schlather, BS, ASCM – CEP

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