Exercise has been described as “the magic pill”, because it is the one single thing that you can “take” or perform to get the most health benefits all at once. These benefits include preventing dementia and cardiovascular disease, preventing many forms of cancer, improving cardiovascular fitness, maintaining mobility, maintaining or losing weight and preventing obesity, and maintaining muscle strength, among many others.
Many studies have shown that just staying in motion throughout the day can help prevent cardiovascular disease by combating a sedentary lifestyle. One recent study showed that as little as 5 minutes of leisure-pace running can extend healthy life.
Other studies have confirmed that exercise is important at any age; those who are 50 or older can add 3 years to their life just by beginning daily exercise!
Another study from Australian researchers at Queensland University of Technology looked at the long-term impact of exercise in women over 50 years of age, extending over a 5-year follow-up period. These researchers found that moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity reduced the risk of death in these women, and concluded that women would benefit from an exercise prescription.
The concept of a prescription for exercise, or exercise prescription, has been gaining ground among many in the medical community, with organizations such as the American College of Sports Medicine and the American College of Cardiology encouraging their members to prescribe exercise as they would a medication. These organizations provide templates from which physicians and other healthcare professionals can customize exercise recommendations for each individual patient.
The American College of Sports Medicine has even launched a campaign titled, “Exercise is Medicine,” noting that “exercise and physical activity are important to health and the prevention and treatment of many chronic diseases.” Multiple resources for both health care professionals as well as health and fitness professionals can be found on the dedicated “Exercise is Medicine” site at http://exerciseismedicine.org/physicians.htm.
Yasmine S. Ali, MD, MSCI, FACC, FACP, is President of Nashville Preventive Cardiology, PLLC, in Nashville, TN. She is board-certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease, as well as in clinical lipidology and nuclear cardiology. She is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and of the American College of Physicians. She graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 2001, and has made it her career’s work to follow her passion for preventing cardiovascular disease and improving heart health for as many people as possible. In addition, Dr. Ali is also the Physician Expert for the Obesity site for www.obesity.about.com. Each month she will be contributing an educational piece on preventing cardiovascular disease. To learn more about Dr. Ali, visit www.preventivecardio.com.