Since the 20th century, the medical advice from most practitioners to their patients suffering from chronic illnesses or diseases like Type 2 diabetes and heart failure was to limit exercise. Now, in the 21st century, exercise physiologists, metabolic neurologists, and kinesiologists are looking at scientific approaches to exercise as medicine, favoring prevention over treatment with medications.
The scientific benefits of exercise may include slower aging, better mood, less chronic pain, stronger vision, better skin, and improved brain health, just to name a few. In a recent Time magazine article entitled “The Exercise Cure: The surprising science of a life changing workout,” researchers and scientists point out that the health benefits of exercise are overshadowed, or under communicated to the average American. In an attempt to prove that the scientific benefits of exercise are real, experts in the fields of exercise and health are launching studies to document measurable data. The article states that “In the end, researchers think they’ll be able to identify every single molecule in the body that’s tweaked or turned on by exercise.”
With 80.2 million Americans over the age of 6 considered to be entirely inactive, as cited in the article, now may be the time for our nation’s healthcare system to focus more on exercise as medicine for preventing future health risks like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and chronic low-back pain.
Obviously, the bones, muscles, heart, and lungs benefit from exercise, but researches are seeing possibly significant improvements to brain health through exercise as well. In fact, research suggests that exercise not only helps with depression, memory, and learning, it may be the best way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, according to the article.
Exercise is for everyone, but not every exercise is right for everyone. The scientists referenced in the Time article hope that by providing scientific evidence to doctors on the actual, measurable benefits of exercise, that doctors can start to help their patients, by prescribing exercise regimens specific to their patients’ needs, in hopes that they will see instant, noticeable results.
The article also dispels the misconception that exercise routines have to be long in order to see results. Considering lack of time is the number on reason Americans site for not exercising, researchers put to the test a 10-minute, high intensity workout versus a 50-minute approach. Both workouts resulted “in identical improvements in heart function and blood-sugar control, even though one workout was five times longer than the other.” Even daily and weekend routines are counted as exercise, according to the article. Activities like heavy gardening, taking the stairs, standing instead of sitting, and even doing housework several times a week count as exercise and can help reduce the risk of health issues and concerns.
Once there is the scientific evidence of the positive changes that happen to a body during and after exercise, we can begin to think of exercise as medicine—a remedy for, and a prevention of—chronic illnesses, fatigue, and mental health.
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