Medical Problems and Exercise
When compared to many pharmaceuticals, exercise is a wonder drug. Numerous studies have confirmed that people of all ages can benefit from exercise, with the simplest of daily routines having positive impacts on health. Exercise can prolong life, assist in warding off disease and also play a major role in recovery from illness. According to fitness and medical experts, exercise in moderation is the closest thing we have to a magic pill for all-round good health.
Exercise will halt or even reverse the negative signs of ageing caused by bad habits and sedentary lifestyle choices. It can be a regulated training routine aimed at peak fitness, or simply time spent in the garden, taking a walk around the neighbourhood, or even doing household chores. Every bit of exercise is beneficial, even an hour per day spent moving around, stretching and generally being active has an impact. However, not everyone is convinced.
Treating medical problems with exercise
At first glance, medical problems and exercise appear to be a poor fit. After all, how many chronically ill people are pounding the pavement or hitting the gym? Conversely, how many toned and muscular people are suffering from major illness? Can an ill or overweight person really transform themselves into an active and vibrant example of good health? The answer in many cases is a resounding yes. Exercise attacks the cause of disease as well as fighting off the symptoms. As a precaution or cure, exercise is highly recommended. Below are some medical conditions that regular exercise can treat or prevent.
Heart Disease: The heart is a muscle that is strengthened by regular activity. Exercise lowers blood pressure, enhances blood flow and increases good cholesterol. These improvements alone will improve general health and should be enough motivation to get started with exercise. Those with pre-existing heart disease need medical assessment prior to starting a moderate-vigorous intensity training program.
Stroke: Research has shown that people who engage in moderate exercise are 20% less likely to suffer from a stroke. At first glance this figure might not inspire, but exercise also assists with weight loss and lowering blood pressure, resulting in improved health and longevity.
Type 2 Diabetes: This disease has grown at alarming rates worldwide, and is especially noticed in first-world consumer-driven societies. Exercise improves the body’s sensitivity to insulin and helps improve blood sugar levels. A brisk walk for one hour a day can reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes by a third.
Obesity: There are lots of different body types and shapes that are considered normal. However, whilst you can be ‘beautiful at any size’ , this is not an excuse to avoid exercise. The relationship between exercise and weight loss is complex. Reducing weight is mostly dependant on dietary changes but exercise can increase muscle mass, improve insulin sensitivity, self esteem and motivation, which can all help. Lowering the body mass index (BMI) is essential for obese people who want to minimise the risk of many diseases. Obesity is associated with a range of ailments, and weight loss has the potential to reverse or cure potentially life threatening diseases.
Osteoporosis: Weight bearing exercises strengthen bones and help avoid the onset of osteoporosis. Research reveals that women who engage in regular exercise such as walking, jogging or dancing are less likely to suffer from hip fractures after menopause.
Back Pain: Often overlooked as a health concern, back pain can have debilitating and depressing effects on the sufferer. The good news is that regular exercise of any type is the most beneficial intervention to prevent chronic back pain. Some people also benefit from specific strengthening exercises that can improve core abdominal muscle groups, increase flexibility and re-establish proper posture.
Depression and Anxiety: Exercise is a great tool to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and improve mood. This is especially so in younger people where the effects of medication are less reliable. Exercise is also known to protect from dementia.
Osteoarthritis: Intuitively we expect that using our joints more wears them out. This is not so! Studies actually show runners get less arthritis than sedentary people. If you have symptoms of arthritis, strengthening the muscles around the joint with regular exercise greatly alleviates symptoms. Weight loss is also beneficial.
Simply put, exercise is medicine for a huge number of ailments and should be a major feature of almost every chronic disease treatment plan.
Considering exercise? Start with a medical check-up
If it’s been a while since you exercised the first step is a basic check-up with your Doctor or Sports and Exercise Medicine Physician. Slow and steady is the best approach for gradually building strength and stamina, and there are some instances where intense exercise could be detrimental to health. Contact your Doctor prior to commencing an exercise program if you suffer from an illness or have any other concerns.
Exercise will assist you in finding the right lifestyle balance. It will also set a great example to your children of living an active, healthy life. As with any endeavour, the best results can be attained with the guidance of an expert, so placing your health in the hands of a competent trainer or Sports and Exercise Medicine Physician is the ideal starting point.
Sports and Exercise Medicine Physicians are a great start to assess your exercise needs if you have a disease and are not sure about your next step. North Sydney Sports Medicine also has a Sports Physiologist who can create an exercise prescription that will specifically take your existing diseases, fitness level, personal goals and likes into account and start you on your way.