“Eating alone will not keep a man well,” Hippocrates wrote. “He must also take exercise.”
Historically, doctors knew that diet and exercise were the best ways to maintain human health. However, when medicine shifted to a focus on treatment of disease, rather than prevention, the notion of exercise prescription was lost.
Now, only 20% of Americans meet the recommendations for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity set forth in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Moreover, about half of American adults (117 million people) have one or more preventable chronic diseases, most of which are improved with regular physical activity. (Source: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2018).
While physical activity and exercise have always been known to be “good for you,” it wasn’t enough to keep America moving. However, with emerging research alongside efforts of the Exercise is Medicine initiative, physical activity may find its way back into the doctor’s office.
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
In 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services issued the federal government’s first-ever Physical Activity Guidelines (PAG) for Americans. Much like the Dietary Guidelines, the PAG helps Americans understand the types and amounts of physical activity required to attain health benefits. New guidelines are released every 10 years. The 2018 PAG recommends that Adults:
- Move more and sit less throughout the day. New research suggests that sedentary behavior is a new risk factor for disease, and that some physical activity is better than none.
- Do at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week
- Do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity 2 or more days per week
For more information or to read the 2018 PAG, click here.
Exercise is Medicine
Launched in 2007, Exercise is Medicine (EIM) is a global health initiative with the goal to make physical activity assessment and promotion a standard in clinical care. Started by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Medical Association, EIM connects health care with evidence-based physical activity resources. EIM believes that physical activity should be part of a physician’s treatment plan, and that it is an integral part of preventing and treating medical conditions.
For more information about Exercise is Medicine, click here.
New Benefits of Physical Activity
Emerging research demonstrates physical, psychological and emotional benefits of physical activity beyond those already understood.
||Psychological and Emotional
- Slower aging and longer lifespan
- Less chronic pain
- Stronger vision
- Lower risk of:
- Falls in older adults
- Skin health
- Recovery from illness
- Better mood
- Less depression and anxiety
- Improved cognition and memory
- Quicker learning
- Delayed onset of Alzheimer’s
The benefits of physical activity are extensive, and more than enough reason to start, or continue, an exercise routine. The good news is that benefitting from physical activity doesn’t require a fancy gym membership or 1-2 uninterrupted hours every day. While more is typically better, any movement is better than none, whether it’s a short walk before your day begins, or bodyweight exercises while watching the evening news. It’s easy to feel busy and find exercise at the bottom of your to-do list, but prioritizing your physical health alongside your financial health will pay dividends later in life.