by: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
Been to your doctor lately? If so, you may have noticed that in addition to taking your blood pressure, listening to your heart and weighing you, he/she may also have asked you a question that surprised you.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a new report this week that showed that only one-third of adults who have seen a doctor in the past year have been asked this surprisingly important question—one that can improve your health more than medicines.
In fact, if you have diabetes, it’s more likely that you’ve been asked this question than if you have cardiovascular disease, arthritis, cancer or hypertension. And if you are obese or overweight, you’re twice as likely to have this question popped on you than if you are healthy.
What’s the question? What is it that your doctor is now getting on board with and discussing with you that he/she has not done in the past?
It’s simple—“Are you getting enough exercise?” That’s right, more and more physicians are discussing exercise during examinations.
Over the past 10 years, physicians have been increasingly more aware of the value of exercise for many illnesses and as a preventative. “Medical fitness” has become a thriving and growing area of medical practices, with some physicians having financial ties to fitness centers and gyms attached to their practices or hospitals. Still, far less than half of US adults do not receive any advice on exercise from their doctors.
The “exercise is medicine” campaign has helped bring exercise to the patient – doctor discussion. Only problem is that exercise is NOT medicine. It can help reduce dependence on medicine, can replace the need for medicine, and can push off the need for medicine. But exercise is exercise and while regular exercise and physical activity can lower the risk of chronic illness conditions, it trumps the need for medicine in many.
The value of physicians bringing up any discussion of exercise lies in the fact that people pay attention to what their doctors advise, as they should. But additional research also demonstrates that overweight doctors are more likely to prescribe medicine than discuss exercise or weight loss choices. With 67% of adults obese or overweight, that’s simply unacceptable.
Patients require a very personalize exercise program, so simply making a recommendation for exercise is not enough. And many physicians are not truly expert in exercise program planning. And more may not really know how to bring up a discussion of the value of exercise, especially if they, themselves, don’t exercise. But with 250,000 deaths attributed to a sedentary lifestyle just last year, and likely many more, physicians, more and more, will be including a discussion of the value of getting regular physical activity in patient visits. The World Health Organization estimates that physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death globally, leading to 3.3 million deaths annually.
My advice is that when your physician recommends that you exercise, ask your fitness professional which exercise is right for you.
Side effects may vary, but will include reduced blood pressure, increased energy, decrease in weight, improvement in sleep and concentration, and reduction in depression and anxiety. Other side effects may include improved grades for children, reduced symptoms of ADHD, and enhanced feelings of happiness.