—-As I See it… If exercise is medicine (and it is) then Personal Trainers are akin to Medical Practitioners in a way. I see a day not far into the future where the good work Personal Trainers do will be seen just as important as what most doctors do. In the future, we have to recognize that exercise is the prescription that millions of people need and Personal Trainers should become a legitimate part of our official Health-Care System. Exercise coaches, trainers, and motivators will be a big part of the overall solution to America’s health crisis. This Special Report/Blog explains why. ~Bill—-
Exercise is Medicine
Exercise is Medicine is the name of a program organized by a group of doctors and health care professionals which calls on physicians to assess and review each patient’s physical activity levels at every visit. Their mission, which I endorse and support 100%, is to make exercise a standard part of disease prevention and treatment in the United States. The group believes that doctors should prescribe exercise to their patients just as they would a life-saving medicine. Ultimately they see this leading to a paradigm shift in modern medicine, one that will lead to tremendous overall improvement in the public’s well-being and substantial long-term reductions in health care costs. Their recommendations support a growing body of evidence that working out does much more than burn calories and strengthen muscles.
A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (2005) revealed that consistent exercise can double survival rates of breast cancer patients. Researchers followed 3,000 women being treated for the disease and found that for those with hormone-responsive tumors, walking the equivalent of 3-5 hours per week at a moderate pace, cut the risk of dying from the disease in half compared to the sedentary women in the study. These findings confirm and extend previous scientific studies which show that exercise significantly strengthens the body’s immune system. Harvard Medical School reports that more than 60 studies in recent years make clear that women who exercise regularly can expect a 30% reduction in their chances of developing breast cancer to begin with.
Researchers at Duke University studied people suffering from depression for 4 months and found that 60% of those who exercised for 30 minutes, 3 times a week, overcame the condition without using antidepressants which is about the same percentage rate as those who use medication only in their treatment of depression. And of course, exercise is not only a mood brightener, it produces dozens of other positive effects which antidepressant drugs simply do not.
There is now considerable evidence derived from hundreds of studies, with thousands of subjects, which prove that exercise is remarkably effective in relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety. The best results were shown to occur in vigorous (intense) exercise performed consistently. And the benefits continue as long as someone continues to work out.
Exercise not only helps resolve symptoms of depression and anxiety, but it also enhances self-esteem, produces more restful sleep, and helps people recover more quickly from adversity and better cope with social stress. I’m not basing these claims on a single study. They are supported by what’s called a ‘meta-analysis’ which is a report that essentially combines the findings of most, if not all, of the available research on this topic in the English language. The overall positive patterns of these studies make it remarkably clear that exercise plays an important role in promoting sound mental health and emotional well-being. It works for men and women, adolescents, adults, and senior citizens too.
A study by the California Department of Education, involving 954,000 students grades 5, 7 and 9, showed that the most healthy kids (the ones who scored highest on fitness tests and had lower levels of bodyfat) did twice as well on aptitude exams in reading and mathematics compared to the least fit kids. Harvard professor, John Ratey, M.D., writes, in his latest book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, that more physical fitness for students is a cure for not only unhealthy weight gain, but also the kids’ academic performance.
Additional research shows that consistent exercise protects us from the common cold, flu, and bacterial infections by elevating the body’s production and circulation of immune cells. Exercise has even been shown to strengthen people’s response to the influenza vaccine, making it more effective at keeping deadly viruses at bay. In addition, exercise boosts blood flow to the brain which helps it receive more oxygen and nutrients and it increases the energy of brain waves that are responsible for quick thinking, focus, creativity, and problem solving.
German researchers recently compared a group of athletes to others who were healthy non-smokers but not regular exercisers. The athletes had significantly less degradation in the strands of DNA at the tips of chromosomes called ‘telomeres.’
When telomeres begin to shorten, cells can no longer divide and they become inactive, a process associated with aging, cancer, and heart disease. The German study was published in the November 2009 edition of the Journal of The American Heart Association where it concluded physical activity has a profound anti-aging effect at the cellular mitochondria level.
Studies at Tufts University in Boston have demonstrated that even at age 92, moderate-resistance exercise, performed 3 times a week for 8 weeks, increases muscle strength by an average of 174%. This translates into a 48% increase in mobility and a significant reduction in fall risk.
Another study, published in the journal Neurology, looked at 3,298 folks with an approximate average age of 70 years. Over a 9-year span, those who participated regularly in vigorous exercise (tennis, jogging, biking, swimming, weight lifting) were discovered to be 63% less likely to suffer a stroke compared with inactive senior citizens.
Exercise has been shown to both prevent and treat osteoporosis, help manage diabetes, reduce the risk of addiction relapse, slow premature aging of the skin, promote healthier digestion, reduce aches and pains, contribute to optimism and a positive mindset. What all this information points to is that exercise is not a silver bullet—it’s platinum.
The Price of Inactivity
The fact that such remarkable benefits come from simply adding a few hours of exercise to our weekly schedules begins to make clear how devastating the effects of inactivity actually are. You see, what exercise does is simply reverse the damage done by living a sedentary life. If exercise is a vaccine, as Dr. Sallis puts it, inactivity is akin to a deadly virus.
Medical experts now say inactivity poses as great a health risk as smoking. Let’s pause here for a moment to process that. Okay, what that means is if parents let their kids play video games and sit at the computer all day, it’s akin to handing them a pack of cigarettes. Yes or no… would you do that to your kids? And what about yourself?
Please realize that every week you don’t get up and move for a few hours (walking, weight lifting, jogging) takes you another step closer to heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, depression, arthritis, and osteoporosis. Again, I’m asking you to pause, take a deep breath and consider what this means in your life and the lives of those you know and care about. This next statistic is both stunning and sad: According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, more than 80 million U.S. adults don’t do any voluntary exercise at all. And we wonder why America, this great nation with an abundance of resources, technology, and scientific know-how, is dead last on the list of the health of modern countries.
Making people aware of the reality of this situation can literally save lives. It’s true! It’s also true that if we can get this message out and get people moving, we can transform the nation from worst to first in health and fitness. We start by setting a positive example for our families and friends. We can ask them to participate with us—invite a buddy to the gym, take the kids to a park and kick off a friendly game of soccer, shoot baskets, go swimming or race in the backyard. Do something, anything, that gets the blood and oxygen pumping, lights up the brain and works the muscles!
On the one hand it seems too simple; how could working out or walking help change the nation? Yet when we look at the bigger picture and consider all the scientific evidence that we’ve reviewed so far, the impact of your leading by example and helping to spread the message makes a very real difference in the future of our society.
Add to this the devastating financial consequences: Last year it cost our country over $147 billion to take care of citizens who didn’t take care of themselves. How can there be true health care or financial reform without getting every man, woman and child that can participate in a few hours of weekly physical activity to do so? I think the only way that’s possible is to individually and collectively get up, get moving, exercise, be active and bring as many people with us as we possibly can!
Conclusion: Exercise is incredible medicine. I recommend you fill your Rx of it today! =)
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