Exercise is a Wonder Drug!
According to a 2015 article in The Chicago Tribune, a report from IMS health estimated that in 2015 Americans spent $309.5 billion dollars on prescription medication. US drug spending is about 40% of all drug expenditures worldwide. This has to do not only with the fact there are more medicated people in the United States, but also because Americans have higher drug prices.
With pill bottles stacked high and bills even higher, I imagine that if any scientist could discover an inexpensive wonder drug to improve health – whether it be diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or depression – it would hit the headlines.
Well, it has hit the headlines, and did most recently (albeit tucked in the health pages of The New York Times) last month. This wonder cure does exist. And it’s called exercise.
Okay. I can hear you groan. But wait a minute. Just hear me out. As a certified personal trainer in New York City, I’ve worked with clients of all backgrounds. When people hear “personal trainer” they imagine professional athletes, actors and top models. In fact, most of my clients have been referred to me by doctors to help them with chronic pain, back pain and rheumatoid arthritis. I work with clients trying to get in shape post-stroke or heart attack. I work with clients who have Type II Diabetes. I work with older clients determined to stay strong and independent, teenagers struggling with their relationships with their food and bodies, pre-natal and post-natal mothers who want to give their babies a healthy head start on life. The best part of my job is guiding people toward a healthier lifestyle, strength, and fitness and watching as they are able to cut back on their prescription pills.
Exercise is the wonder drug. Here is what it does, specifically, for some of our most common health problems in the United States.
- Diabetes: In the short term, exercise lowers blood glucose by increasing insulin sensitivity. Also contracting muscles allow your cells to take up glucose and use it in your cells. In the long term, exercise can lower your A1C.
- Heart Disease: Exercise lowers your resting blood pressure which, in turn, reduces the heart’s workload. Anginal symptoms can be alleviated. Regular exercise also increases the body’s ability to take in and use oxygen.
- Chronic Pain (Rheumatoid Arthritis, Back Pain, Fibromyalgia etc.): Harvard School of Health says “there is mounting scientific evidence for the role of stretching and muscle strengthening in treating people with neck and shoulder pain.” Moreover, studies show that exercise improves aerobic capacity and strength in patients who suffer from debilitating conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.
- Depression and Anxiety: Exercise releases neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids, reduces system chemicals that compromises the immune system and increases the body temperature. All of these things have a physiological calming effect on the body. A Harvard Health study found that “exercise’s effects lasted longer than those of antidepressants.”
I’m not saying that we can all start jogging and give up our medication. Prescription medication is necessary for many illnesses. That said, the effects of exercise go way beyond looking great in a bikini. The real reason I love to exercise and love to share that with my clients is because exercise is the key to getting healthier. It is a wonder drug of sorts. And the best part is you need relatively little to boost your immune system, strengthen your body and feel better. Just 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can get you on the road to good health and, hopefully, less medication.
Instead of fretting about how you’re going to run the next mudder, walk to your grocery store, to work, or take an after lunch walk before heading back to the office. Dance, garden, play soccer in the park with your kids, even vacuuming the house while listening to up-beat music can get your heart rate between 110 and 140 beats a minute. Get moving and feel better!