Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Exercise is Medicine....and it's Cheap Too!

Exercise is Medicine!

By: Andrew Jagim

This tagline has become quite popular not only within the fitness industry but in healthcare and the corporate wellness world as well. The tagline itself is fairly self-descriptive and hints at the idea that exercise or physical activity can play a role in healthcare, specifically as an option to treat certain medical conditions.  Exercise, which is often thought of as an optional activity that can be used to improve performance, help with weight loss or serve as a recreational activity; may offer more benefits than is given credit.  There are entire organizations that are dedicated to highlighting the importance of exercise and how it can be used in healthcare, particularly as a result of it's health promoting benefits. So can exercise be used as medicine and can it really be used in lieu of actual prescription medications? The short answer is Yes....for the most part....kind of. Okay maybe that wasn't a short answer after all.

Let me explain. Regular participation in exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Specifically, regular exercise can reduce blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, reduce triglyceride levels, reduce resting blood sugar levels, help with weight loss, help improve body composition, improve blood flow, improve soft-tissue integrity, improve bone mineral density, improve balance, improve strength, improve endurance and the list could literally go on for pages. Obviously, different types, intensities, duration and frequency of exercise offers different benefits which we've focused on with various previous posts in the past.  The good news, is that it doesn't take much to experience some of these health-related benefits as even brief 10 min walks throughout the day can help reduce your risk of developing various diseases.

There are also some great resources available that show how beneficial exercise can be at not only improve health and wellness but also in its ability to save money!  From one particular study, researchers found the following:

"The data suggest that increasing participation in moderate physical activity among sedentary adults may reduce direct medical expenditures - between $300 and £1,053 per person per annum - a US saving of $76.6 billion at 2000 prices."

You can see from a financial perspective there is the potential for some serious savings. Research has shown that 1 out of every 2 Americans has at least one chronic disease (hypertension, high cholesterol etc.) and 1 out of every 4 have multiple chronic diseases which translates to about $2 TRILLION annually and approximately 84% of all healthcare spending! THAT'S A LOT OF MONEY.  All money that could easily be spent elsewhere if proper interventions (i.e. EXERCISE) were utilized as we mentioned above that a lot of the benefits of exercise can serve as reasons to begin an exercise program as a preventative strategy.  Which is important to note as studies have found that regular exercise has been shown to be just as effective as prescription drugs as far as the ability to treat various medical conditions. Regarding the statement I made earlier can the applicability of using exercise instead of prescription medications (Disclaimer: I'm not a real doctor with a medical degree, but I am an exercise physiologists so obviously consult your physician first before make any changes to your medications); there is very strong evidence that shows exercise can be used to manage a lot of the chronic diseases that we have been referring to. However if these conditions are left untreated for long periods of time than medications or even surgical interventions may be required. These are all reasons to get started early and use exercise to prevent these chronic health conditions in the first place and save yourself (and your employer) $1,000 of dollars worth of health care expenses later down the road.

Moral of the story, move now or pay later!

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