The World’s Best Medicine – Exercise
Dr. Mike Evans, a family physician in Toronto, recently asked the question: what makes the biggest difference to your health? If your first thoughts are food or pharmaceuticals, you may be surprised by the answer …
Going through various clinical studies, Evans found that the best medicine for better health is exercise. Period.
How Well Does it Work?
The research speaks for itself:
- Patients with knee arthritis who received one hour of treatment (i.e., exercise) three times a week reduced their rates of pain and disability by 47%.
- In older patients, exercise reduced progression to dementia and Alzheimer’s by around 50%.
- In patients at high risk for diabetes (coupled with other lifestyle interventions), exercise reduced progression to frank diabetes (a pre-diabetic state) by 58%.
- Post-menopausal women who had four hours of exercise a week had a 41% reduction in the risk of hip fracture.
- Exercise reduced anxiety by 48%.
- In patients suffering from depression, 30% were relieved with low-dose exercise – and that number bumped to 47% as the dose was increased.
- Following over 10,000 Harvard alumni for over 12 years, those that exercised had a 23% lower risk of death than those who didn’t.
- Exercise is the No. 1 treatment of fatigue.
- Exercise has been shown over and over again to improve quality of life.
Exercise Every Day & Get the Health Benefits
According to Evans, many of us spend most of our day couch surfing, sitting at work and, obviously, sleeping. What the evidence shows is that the best thing you can do for your health is to spend at least half an hour a day being active. And if you can do that, you can realize all the benefits.
Aerobic Centre Longitudinal Study
In a University of South Carolina study that followed over 50,000 men and women over time, low fitness was the strongest predictor of death. A separate study showed that the combination of obesity and no exercise was “very bad” from a health point of view. However, when obese people are active, even if they don’t see any weight loss, their health is greatly improved. As Evans says, “The exercise ameliorated many of the negative consequences of obesity.”
So, in terms of exercise being a medicine for better health, what’s the correct dosage? In other words: how long and how often must you exercise, and how intense must it be, in order to gain the benefits?
Essentially, says Evans, more activity is better. “We see big differences when someone goes from not do anything to doing something.” He suggests thinking about your style, habits and personal cues when considering how, how long and how often to exercise.
A Frightening Alternative
In contrast with doing some form of exercise, for at least half an hour every day, is doing nothing at all. Being sedentary is bad for your health. Compared to people who watch no TV, those that watch six hours of TV per day can expect to live about five years less. (If you’re wondering who watches that much television in a day, the average adult in the U.S. spends about five hours a day in front of the tube or watching some sort of screen.)
Bottom Line: Exercise = Better Health
You might be very busy with work, or kids, or both, you might be in pain or have other priorities, but ask yourself this: can you limit your sitting and sleeping to just 23.5 hours per day and use the other 30 to get on your feet and do something active? Just something to think about …
Bikram Yoga is a great way to get moving. Never done it before? Your first class is free! (see form top right)