We are all hoping for someone to produce that magic pill to treat and prevent major illness and disease. It seems that exercise might be the closest thing we have to that pill!
Regular physical activity is one of the most fundamental and affordable actions we can take as individuals to avoid disease and stay well.
Mountains of research show that as little as 15 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (brisk walking, swimming, and mowing the lawn) 5 days a week can help lower your cardiovascular risk.Exercise is crucial to the prevention and management of numerous other chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, and anxiety. In fact, regular exercise can reduce the risk and symptoms of more than 20 physical and mental health conditions. Exercise can be as effective as many commonly prescribed drugs in treating some of the leading causes of death, according to a report in the 2013 British Journal of Medicine.
This groundbreaking study showed that drugs and exercise consistently produced almost exactly the same results preventing early death in patients with coronary heart disease, who have heart failure, who are recovering from stroke, and in preventing diabetes.
People with heart disease, who exercised but did not use commonly prescribed medications, had the same risk of surviving heart disease as patients taking those drugs. Similarly, people with diabetes who exercised had the same relative risk of surviving the condition as those taking the most commonly prescribed drugs.
Even more recently, exercise, specifically high intensity intermittent training (HIIT), was shown to improve cardiac function and liver fat in people with Type II diabetes. (Cassidy et al, 2015) The majority of premature deaths and illnesses, not to mention health care costs are preventable. Many lifestyle diseases are chronic conditions that result from lifestyle choices.
Regular exercise is an excellent primary prevention method for disease. Thousands of studies show that exercise combats illness and protects life. Yet exercise rarely gets the attention it deserves.
We all clearly need to shift our focus from medication to exercise and from treatment to prevention to combat physical ailments. As health care professionals, we are in the very best position to spread this simple medical truth: “Apart from not smoking, being physically active is the most powerful lifestyle choice any individual can make to improve their health.” (Science Daily).