There is no denying that exercise provides many health benefits to people of all ages. In a recent article from The New York Times, exercise was referred to as a “wonder drug”, and reviewed how physical activity can positively affect many different medical conditions. The article examined studies, as well as evidence-based data, to support the noted benefits.
Conditions discussed in the article include: musculoskeletal diseases such as arthritis and back pain, cardiac disease, high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, pulmonary disease, depression, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and fatigue, as well as treatment of elderly patients. In some conditions and circumstances, exercise was also found to be superior over drugs in impacting overall health and decreasing mortality. The recommended amount of exercise is 150 minutes per week (30 minutes per day for five days), and this may be accomplished simply by walking briskly.
In over 20 years of practice, my first line of treatment for patients with all musculoskeletal conditions was recommending a pain-free exercise program, tailored to each patient. For example, in a patient with knee arthritis, where running may exacerbate the problem, I would recommend a low impact activity such as swimming, cycling or yoga. For specific exercise programs, I would refer patients to physical therapists, who are most qualified to supervise and implement these programs. Licensed physical therapists utilize their medical knowledge and clinical experience to create a comprehensive, individualized rehabilitation program for each patient.
Owen Lennon PT, DPT, OCS, at Professional Physical Therapy, agrees with Dr. Levy stating, “As a physical therapist, it is very rewarding to see patients realize the benefits of exercise. Many patients are becoming more aware of the rising cost of prescription drugs and potential side-effects, and are looking for alternatives. When patients successfully complete a course of care with a Physical Therapist, and then change their lifestyles to include regular exercise, they are taking a major step forward in their overall health. The New York Times article describing exercise as a “wonder drug” is very accurate. Unfortunately, it may be one of the most under-utilized “treatment modalities”. Through our daily interactions in the clinic, we are working to change that.”
So the next time you’re handed a prescription for pharmaceuticals, consider consulting with a healthcare professional to develop a customized fitness program, specific to your condition, that will help maximize outcomes.