Exercise: A Rx for Good Health
There are two pillars of healthy living. One is eating a balanced diet rich in nutrients and low in sugar and salt. The other is physical activity, and it has more healing power than you may think. In fact, a little exercise could be just what the doctor orders.
“Regular physical activity can be just as effective as a pharmaceutical for treating and preventing many different medical conditions and chronic illnesses,” says Dr. Thomas Best, a sports medicine specialist at the University of Miami Sports Medicine Institute.
As a member of the advisory board for the American College of Sports Medicine health initiative “Exercise is Medicine®,” Dr. Best works to spread awareness on the importance of physical activity assessment and promotion in all aspects of clinical care. He often prescribes exercise to patients, both for treatment and prevention of chronic diseases.
An exercise prescription just for you
Exercise helps prevent a variety of different cancers, including bladder, lung, kidney, colon, and breast, according to the US Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Evidence shows that physical activity helps decrease pain, improve cognition, and reduce depression and anxiety symptoms.
They recommend that adults need at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise like brisk walking per week. Adults should also do two days of strength training like push-ups to gain the most health benefits from exercise per week.
“These guidelines are important for everyone to follow, including our children,” says Dr. Best, “But, we can also prescribe a condition-specific exercise routine for maximum health outcomes. For example, someone with depression may benefit from yoga and Pilates, whereas someone with COPD may benefit more from high intensity interval training.”
Get moving, under the care of a doctor
Regardless of your physical limitations, any physical activity is better than being a couch potato.
“There are lots of different ways to incorporate physical activity in your treatment plan,” says Dr. Best. “It’s important that you consult your physician first so they can advise you on what is safe.”
If you are taking medications, ask your doctor if they could affect your ability to start a workout routine. For instance, some patients with depression take medications that could cause dizziness, so caution should be exercised. Also, patients with certain illnesses may see benefits from one type of exercise, but worsened symptoms from another type.
If you have asthma, being active may reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. But, the Exercise is Medicine® “prescription” for asthma says, “If the Air Quality Index (AQI) is in the moderate to unhealthy range (> 50), try an indoor activity.”
Natasha Bright is a contributing writer for UMiami Health News. You may have read her writing on the Huffington Post and Scary Mommy websites.