The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1182: How You Can Use Exercise as Medicine

Doctors who use exercise as medicine offer personalized prescriptions for activity. This can be as powerful as medications for promoting health.
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How You Can Use Exercise as Medicine

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Does medicine mean “drugs and surgery” to you? That is certainly how a lot of people see it. However, physical activity–exercise–has powerful abilities to help us heal. How can we use exercise as medicine?

What does it mean to use exercise as medicine? The concept may seem a bit strange unless you have encountered cardiovascular rehabilitation after a heart attack. You may also be aware of the intense physical therapy needed to make some joint replacements successful. There are also many other ways in which the activities we do affects our health, preventing illness or helping with recovery.

Can Doctors Encourage Patients to Exercise?

Many doctors would be surprised to learn that exercise can be as powerful in certain circumstances as prescription drugs. How can physicians help patients implement an exercise plan that they can actually follow? Just pointing a finger and saying “Exercise more” doesn’t work very well. People may need personalized exercise programs that are tailored to their medical conditions as well as to their tastes and preferences.

This Week’s Guests:

Kerry J. Stewart, EdD, is Director of Clinical and Research Exercise Physiology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He is also Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology.
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/profiles/results/directory/profile/7368725/kerry-stewart

Sameer Dixit, MD, is Medical Director of the Johns Hopkins Orthopaedic Clinic at Green Spring Station and Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery.
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/profiles/results/directory/profile/0024715/sameer-dixit

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I force myself to exercise though I often don’t feel like it. It is an awesome medicine.

I have been on 3 different blood pressure medications and still have had trouble with control. Although I exercise regularly (each morning) by late afternoon my BP skyrockets. I have found that taking two brisk walks, one in the afternoon and another in the evening, keeps my BP normal. I have halved my beta blocker and eliminated a second med entirely by sticking to this routine.

It’s too bad that insurance companies don’t encourage people to exercise. Are discounts still given to non-smokers?

I’m 67 and love exercise because I love being fit and still able to do all the things I enjoy. I recently had a health checkup, and my young PA kept commenting on my level of fitness. My response was I could do all these things because I never stopped.

I had plenty of “desk jobs” over the years, but I always made sure I did some kind of exercise on a regular basis, plus I did not allow myself to overeat (most of the time). Now, of course, I have more time for physical activities. I’ve been using a treadmill or walking outside for years, but recently I added Pilates and yoga.

I have a wonderful horse, and I can still easily get my foot in the stirrup and mount from the ground. LOTs of my younger friends can’t do this. I practice dressage, and I trail ride, and I still love to ride bareback. I’m truly grateful for these things and more, but I know it’s because I’ve made physical fitness a priority (along with a healthy diet).

I know exercise helps me to feel better, sleep better, and I hope to live longer!

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