Pharmaceutical companies spend in the neighborhood of $30 billion annually to promote the latest “wonder” drug or remind physicians and consumers alike about the benefits of older drugs that are still reaping huge profits for the manufacturers. Those marketing dollars are borne on the backs of consumers who pay ever rising prices on prescription drugs to control or cure chronic disease.
What if there was one prescription that could prevent and treat dozens of diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, without prohibitive cost or dangerous side effects?
There is – it’s exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Medical Association (AMA) have joined forces to promote a global initiative called Exercise is Medicine® to encourage primary care physicians and other healthcare providers to include exercise when designing treatment plans for their patients. Exercise is Medicine® is committed to the belief that exercise and physical activity are integral to the prevention and treatment of chronic disease and should be regularly assessed as part of medical care, just like any other element of the annual or semi-annual check-up.
Why is the Exercise is Medicine® initiative so crucial?
Physical inactivity is a fast-growing public health problem that contributes to a variety of chronic diseases and health complications, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, depression and anxiety, arthritis and osteoporosis.
Here are some startling facts we know about physical inactivity.
1. According to the World Health Organization’s most recent Global Health Risks data (2004), after high blood pressure, tobacco use and high blood glucose, physical inactivity constitutes the 4th leading cause of death globally, with 3.3 million attributable deaths per year. More recent evidence (2009) using direct measure rather than survey data shows physical inactivity to be the leading cause of death in the U.S.
2. More than half of the adults (56%) do not meet the recommendations for sufficient physical activity according to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines.
3. In a study of older adolescents and adults in the U.S., all participants spent almost eight hours a day in sedentary behaviors, and as many as 36% of adults engaged in no leisure-time physical activity at all.
4. A 2008 study shows that physical inactivity costs the U.S. healthcare system $330 per person each year, which amounts to more than $102 billion dollars annually.
Regular physical activity can:
Reduce mortality and the risk of recurrent breast cancer by approximately 50%.
Lower the risk of colon cancer by over 60%.
Reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by approximately 40%.
Lower the risk of stroke by 27%.
Reduce the incidence of heart disease and high blood pressure by approximately 40%.
Lower the risk of developing type II diabetes by 58%.
Be twice as effective in treating type II diabetes than the standard insulin prescription, and can save $2250 per person per year when compared to the cost of standard drug treatment.
For some patients, decrease depression as effectively as anti-depression drugs or behavioral therapy.
On the Exercise is Medicine® website, www.exerciseismedicine.org, physicians and health and fitness professionals can access helpful guides on how to work together to establish referral networks for patients who are prescribed a structured exercise program as a part of an overall treatment plan. Also included is a handy Public Action Guide for patients to use when discussing physical activity with their primary care physicians.
Exercise is the one prescription than can not only prevent and lessen the disastrous effects of many chronic illnesses, it can make you look better, feel better, and have more energy to do the things you love to do. Exercise is Medicine® is working to take that message to physicians and their patients across the country and around the world. Take their advice and talk to your doctor about one prescription that can change your life – exercise.