The Magic Pill:Exercise Is Medicine

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What if I told you there was a magic pill that could reduce your risk of cancer, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes? This pill could also reduce your high blood pressure and your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This magic little pill also has no negative side effects and wouldn’t clash with any of your other medication. If I offered you this pill, would you take it? You’d be crazy not to!

The best part about this drug is that it’s right at your finger tips. This magic pill is exercise! You’re probably saying “That can’t be right! Exercise just leaves me feeling sweaty, tired, and sore.” Think of the current physical activity guidelines as your “prescription” but instead of having to go to the pharmacist, you have the power to fill your prescription yourself. The current physical activity guidelines for adults are:

  • 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity
  • 2-3 strength training sessions focusing on the whole body
  • Stretching after each dedicated exercise session
exercise can reduce your risk of chronic disease
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Not only can regular physical activity and exercise help treat a number of different diseases, it’s free and can save society a lot of money. The projected savings of increasing physical activity rates by just 1% per year in Canada is $2.1 billion per year! If done properly, exercise has no negative side effects compared to pharmaceutical drugs. It impacts your whole body and overall health and wellness instead of targeting just one problem or disease. I’m sure you know some friends or family that are on 5-6 different medications. All of those conditions could potentially be managed with exercise!

You’re probably asking yourself “If it’s that easy, why isn’t everyone exercising?!” Society tends to look for the quick fix option and exercise takes a lot of work. Only 15% of adult Canadians are currently meeting physical activity guidelines and a lot of physical education programs are being cut in schools. Researchers are now looking into whether exercise is just as effective as drugs for most chronic diseases. One of the limitations right now is that there are thousands of papers on the effects of drugs since the pharmaceutical industry wants to sell their product. There is no big push for exercise so although there is strong evidence, there isn’t enough out there for a direct comparison.

So what can you do?

There is also strong evidence that sitting for prolonged periods of time can increase your chronic disease risk – even if you are meeting physical activity guidelines. No activity is necessarily better than another – as long as you’re doing both cardio and strength, the best activity is one that you enjoy! Finding friends or family to be active with you will help keep exercise fun and provides you with some accountability. Trying new activities will keep exercise fresh and keep you moving through the years.

Did you like this post? Click here to view the printer-friendly pdf.

Visit Exercise is Medicine Canada to learn more about this initiative.

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