What if there was a medicine so powerful in maintaining and improving health that it could prevent and treat dozens of diseases?
This is the question asked in the national campaign called Exercise Is Medicine™, sponsored by the American Medical Association and the American College of Sports Medicine.
This initiative encourages physicians to promote exercise among their patient population, assess any limitations a patient may have in terms of the type and amount of exercise they can do and then give the patient a written exercise prescription. The patient can follow the prescription independently, or, if they feel they need guidance and supervision to get started they can take it to a health professional such as a physical therapist, athletic trainer or exercise physiologist who can help them create and carry out an exercise plan.
Research proves that exercise is powerful medicine. It plays a key role in the prevention and treatment of at least 40 diseases, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and hypertension. In addition, exercise allows us to maintain mobility, balance, and strength as we get older so that we can remain independent and enjoy life.
Exercise is also often the best way to manage chronic pain such as neck or back pain or arthritis pain. This is true for both physiological and psychological reasons. On the physical side, exercise increases blood flow and encourages the natural healing process; it also strengthens the muscles that support the joints and spine thereby decreasing pain and improving movement. Exercise also produces brain chemicals called endorphins, which are natural pain and stress fighters. The release of endorphins decreases our perception of pain and strengthens our immune response.
On the psychological side, research proves that people who use the right kind of exercise to manage pain have better results than those who don’t because it puts them back in control of their bodies; they realize that the power to manage pain lies with them! This is especially true for people who have suffered from chronic back pain and have tried everything from acupuncture to massage, to medication and injections, or even surgery. In all of these cases they are relying on someone else to “fix” them. With respect to chronic back pain, extensive clinical research shows that for most people the “fix” is ineffective or offers only temporary relief and that the best medicine is the right kind of exercise program.
It appears that part of the impediment to exercise as medicine in the US may be cultural. Our healthcare system and “modern medicine” has led many of us to expect our doctors to “fix us” with a pill, a shot, or surgical procedure that insurance will pay for. By contrast, in Germany and several other European countries, patients are expected to be a part of their recovery and healing. Ironically, the most successful and well documented program for managing back and neck pain, created here in the U.S., is utilized more and is well known to more doctors and the general public in Germany than it is here!
PS. We have that program right here at Back to Health!!
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