Exercise replaces regular prescriptions

Hannah Bjorkman, Staff Writer

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We’ve all heard it. Exercise is the key to longevity. But now it seems doctors are starting to think it’s the key to helping many more pressing issues, and they are going as far as prescribing it. For patients wrestling with everything from obesity to depression, this could be life changing.

Does this mean that patients who have chronic health problems may soon be going to the gym more often than their local pharmacy? It’s not that far-fetched. New studies are showing that exercise is a very effective tool in the fight against obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and depression — health problems that remain a scourge all over America.

People who are physically active tend to live longer and are at a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease and some cancers. Fewer than one in four American adults exercise enough to reap those benefits, the U.S Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention says.

Dr. Michelle Johnson, from Boston MA, is a doctor at Roxbury-based health center. She says in an article from Westport News that, “Exercise is not the new medicine. It’s really an old medicine.” Johnson adds, “But you know, I think we’re now coming to the point of understanding how important it is.”

It seems that high school students across the country are suffering within a society that has gone sedentary. Our healthcare system focuses far too often on medications and not enough on activity to battle physical illness. Only one in four U.S. teens ages 12 to 15 get at least one hour of exercise each day.

Patricia Eagan, who is a doctor at the Pediatric Healthcare Associates in Southport has been prescribing exercise as a written prescription for her patients who struggle with obesity.

I do feel that having this in writing, in a direct, concise and ‘official’ format, helps with goal setting.” With this in mind, she also suggests that her patients invest in “a Fit Bit or a pedometer and recommend a certain number of steps and/or flight of stairs per day as a goal and gradually increase this number at subsequent office visits.”

Eagan advocates for exercise as a written prescription because, “A written prescription carries the gravitas of a medication prescription and is a demonstration of how important this aspect of therapy truly is.”

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