By: Erin Mahoney
Physical activity, specifically exercise, promotes health and wellness; but exercise asmedicine is also a global health initiative. Managed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), Exercise is Medicine encourages physicians and healthcare providers to include fitness as part of larger healthcare treatment plans. Further, it aims to create cohesiveness between the healthcare provider and fitness professionals.
In the case of chronic diseases, exercise can sometimes prevent or even treat such conditions.
Exercise is easy and cost-effective in controlling disease. Although people will still be at risk and develop conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, and others even if they exercise, it’s an excellent starting point in a well-rounded and long-term health plan.
In addition to being included as part of a wellness plan, exercise also supports the requirements of ADLs, or activities of daily living. As we get older, simple tasks such as putting groceries away, tying our shoes, and even walking can become more difficult. The Exercise is Medicine initiative addresses different modes of exercise for therapeutic benefits and can include:
- Balance training
- Strength training
- Aerobic conditioning
- Mobility and flexibility training
- Resistive exercise
Health Benefits of Exercise
There is growing science-based evidence showing that regular physical activity positively influences most of the body’s functions. From immune support to depression, and of course cardiovascular function, the health benefits of exercise are widely documented. Just a few ways that exercise acts as medicine are:
- Mental activity: decreasing depression and increasing mental acuity
- Immune function: moderate exercise can boost T cell production
- Cardiorespiratory function: heart and lung function markedly improve with proper training
- Cardiovascular function: the vascular system becomes more efficient
- Bone density: maintains or improves with adequate stimulation
- Liver function: the liver’s ability to store glycogen is improved as a result of improved cardiovascular conditioning
- Body composition: increased lean body mass when combined with proper calorie consumption
- Gastrointestinal function: regular activity may decrease colon cancer since physical movement decreases the amount of time food remains in the colon and rectum
- Metabolism: the body becomes more efficient at generating energy; strength training increases muscle mass which also increases the metabolism
- Musculoskeletal system: most sedentary adults will lose a large amount of strength and muscle mass by age 70. This is a primary contributing factor to the loss of independence with aging
- Insulin sensitivity: exercise combats the primary mechanisms that reduce insulin sensitivity via disrupted insulin signaling
In addition, there are many other body systems that benefit from a fitness program. In fact, you could safely say there isn’t a large body system that isn’t positively affected by physical activity. You can not only prevent, but treat many diseases, in addition to improving the look and feel of your body with a fitness routine. Some additional benefits include:
- Heart and lung health
- Muscle strength
- Weight gain prevention
- Quality of life and life expectancy
- Pregnancy health
- Blood pressure regulation
Exercises to Improve Overall Health
Regular exercise builds strength in the muscles being trained. Strength can be improved with both cardiovascular training and resistance training. Improving strength is a key factor in improving balance, stability, and coordination.Stronger muscles maintain greater coordination between the nervous system and the muscular system helping joints to remain mobile and stabilized.
Regular exercise also helps muscle tissue to regulate the storage and release of stored glycogen. This, in turn, helps the body maintain the balance of glucagon and insulin to maintain blood glucose levels.
In addition, over time, regular exercise counteracts the natural loss of bone density that occurs with aging. The risks of osteoporosis, bone fractures, bone breaks, and skeletal injury from falls is reduced.
Purposeful exercise can be for maintenance of health, prevention of disease, or in promotion of healing. The latter is known as rehabilitation and it applies to injury recovery and physical dysfunctions. Rehabilitation works to expedite the healing process and restore functional capabilities to people with disabilities or impairments. A Health Coach will likely encounter clients undergoing physical rehabilitation as a short-term solution towards improved long-term health.
Rehabilitation exercise can also be employed to combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Fortunately, many of these effects can be lessened with regular exercise. They include:
- Muscle weakness or atrophy
- Weakened connective tissue
- Cardiovascular deconditioning
- Poor self-esteem
- High blood pressure
- Progression of type 2 diabetes
Exercise and Disease
In many cases, people with chronic health conditions are not well enough to function and move optimally. They may suffer from poor mobility, a lack of general strength, or carry excess body weight that impairs movement as a result of inactivity. As the science supports, improvements to quality of life from even mild physical activity can be a major benefit for clients even if their health (or conditions) cannot be altered. For example, little evidence shows that cancer patients can be treated with exercise, but the mental (combatting fatigue and depression) and muscular strength (strength and combatting deteriorating physical function) benefits have been shown to greatly improve their quality of life when living with cancer. It is strongly recommended to get patients up and moving in any way they are able in cases where exercise has proven benefits.
The Village offers a wide variety of equipment, trainers, and activities to support a healthy and active lifestyle. Life’s healthier at the Village.