Hippocrates, the “father of medicine” was on to something when he suggested exercise is medicine. Without it, we’re at increased risk of illness or death from heart attack, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain forms of cancer among other diseases. Our mental health is also at risk — we now know that exercise, particularly outdoors, can be as helpful in treating anxiety and depression as many commonly prescribed drugs. I thought this article titled How exercise may aid cancer treatment, from the New York Times, was also fascinating.
As a result of declining physical activity levels and the related impact on the health of Canadians, many physicians have begun handing their patients prescriptions for exercise, pointing to it as among the best treatment options for everything from backache, to arthritis, to stress. More importantly (and empowering!) is the power of exercise in preventing injury and disease.
“In general, 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day has the same effect as one pill for many medical conditions,” says Dr. Anil Maheswari, of Cambridge, Ontario. “But just like most medications, the effect tends to wear off after 24 hours. So to really maximize the benefits, you need to exercise on a daily basis.”
Most prescriptions are costly and have side effects – some of them potentially serious. Exercise is free and while it might leave you a little stiff and sore initially, I’m quite certain the gains you’ll make in health and happiness will quickly offset any initial discomfort.
What are you waiting for? This is one prescription we should begin taking as babies and take for life – especially given that premature deaths due to inactivity are said to be on par with those from smoking. Get up! Get moving!
Wondering where to start? Start by venturing outdoors for a walk, or by running errands on foot or by bike. Use either or both as a springboard to other forms of exercise – like swimming, cycling, a team sport, or picking up a tennis racquet. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, nor does it have to happen all in one go. Research suggests in fact, that several shorter periods of activity throughout the day, may offer more health benefits than a single longer workout.
Kids need at least 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity every day, and adults at least 150 minutes of the same each week. Regardless of your age or fitness level, it’s never too late to fill your prescription for this potent medicine.