Scientists have made a discovery that is proven to reduce premature death from heart attacks and stroke, lower the risk of diabetes and certain cancers, control blood pressure, prevent osteoporosis, and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
This therapy also increases confidence, improves quality of sleep and facilitates weight loss – rarely with any negative side effects. Safe for all age groups, this prescription costs just 150 minutes (of the 10,080 available) each week.
What is this powerful cure-all that every doctor should prescribe and any person can take? Exercise.
And over the past five decades, America has experienced a dramatic reduction in its use. The result: the rise of obesity and chronic illness in the U.S., costing an estimated $190 billion in additional medical spending annually.
Why? One reason is that the number of American jobs that involve intense physical activity declined from 50 percent in 1960 to 20 percent today. Americans now spend the majority of their waking hours engaged in sedentary activity.
As a result, physical inactivity is estimated to cause up to 10 percent of premature deaths from non-communicable disease – a mortality level on par with smoking.
As ominous as these statistics seem, they can be reversed.
Just 15 minutes of exercise a day could reduce mortality risks by 14 percent and increase life expectancy by three years.
Studies show exercise is as effective as many top medications in preventing death after a heart attack or stroke. Exercise can also match the effect of the most powerful drugs on the market in helping people avoid adult-onset diabetes.
And unlike most medications, exercise has benefits beyond fighting disease. Those who exercise often see an increased sense of purpose, better quality of life, improved sleep, reduced stress and stronger relationships. Even physically active individuals who do not lose weight experience better health. Research shows being overweight and “fit” is better than living at a normal weight but unfit.
The benefits also extend beyond the individual. Workers who are physically active have lower rates of absenteeism, higher productivity and fewer musculoskeletal ailments.
As we begin the New Year, let’s all resolve to enjoy this wonder drug’s many benefits. The following five steps can help you ease into this healthier new lifestyle, starting now:
Begin with just 15 minutes of exercise per day and gradually build up to 30 minutes, five times a week. Every minute of activity counts toward improving your health, whether your exercise takes the form of three 10-minute episodes or one 30-minute outing.
For example, you could walk 10 minutes to and from work, and take a 10 minute walk at lunch. That’s 30 minutes. The most important thing is to establish a routine and stick with it. Don’t forget to mark the specific days and times on a calendar to keep a record of what you have accomplished.
2. Find a partner
When you make a commitment to someone else, it is harder to bail and easier to stay with the exercise regimen. Besides, exercise is more enjoyable with others. Involving your children in your exercise regimen can help your whole family establish good habits.
3. Dress the part
Get good walking or running shoes and clothing appropriate for the weather.
4. Pace yourself
Begin by walking at a pace that allows you to converse comfortably. You can apply the “Sing-Talk Test.” Meaning, you might not be able to sing during moderate exercise but you should be able to talk.
If you are enjoying the side effects of exercise and want more, simply add five minutes a day to your routine every week or two. Or, add one minute of jogging for every five minutes of walking.
Consider these five steps as your prescription for better health. Treat exercise as a “vital sign” to reduce your chances of becoming ill or having a complication from a current chronic illness. Remember, exercise can not only help you prolong life and reduce morbidity but also provide you with added energy and improved quality of life.
If you have not filled this prescription for yourself and your family, today is the perfect day to begin.
January 16, 2014
By Robert Pearl, M.D.