Published on January 1st, 2015 | by Lesley Paul0
Prescription For Change
Recently I read an article about a new “prescription” to treat atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rhythm.) The prescription had no true adverse effects and had the added benefit of many positive “side effects”. This prescription is best “taken” daily, it can be shared with a friend and best of all, for the most part, this prescription is absolutely free.
Physicians across the continent are now writing prescriptions for exercise. Last year, Queen’s University kinesiology and Health Studies students launched a program in the campus Health Services department called “Exercise is Medicine”. They developed an exercise prescription and referral form as well as a physician handbook that has since been presented at Kingston General Hospital and a local family health team. Although the project is in its infancy, the group is pleased with the support from a variety of health care providers. Their goal is not only to improve the health of the students but also to apply these strategies to the general public.
While I wouldn’t really say that this is “new”’, it certainly is a novel approach to treating our 21st Century ailments. I know you are thinking that this is just the same old rhetoric about how exercise is good for you. But the proof is out there that making a simple change in your lifestyle has numerous benefits.
It has long been known that exercise aids in weight loss or maintenance of a healthy weight but studies are now focusing on the physiological benefits of an active lifestyle. Exercise can lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol (LDL) as well as increase good cholesterol (HDL). It improves insulin sensitivity, which delays the start of Type 2 diabetes.
Exercise decreases inflammation in the body leading to improved mobility. Agility in seniors is a growing concern. Falls account for half of all injuries among seniors. In fact, ninety-five percent of all hip fractures in Ontario are due to a fall. Staying strong will not only help prevent a fall but provide protection if a fall occurs and aid in a faster recovery.
And let’s not forget the positive effects on the brain that physical activity provides. It increases blood flow leading to improved mood and memory. It may even delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Overall, being active regularly leads to an improved sense of well-being and quality of life.
But what makes the “exercise prescription” a new idea? Physicians are not just recommending daily activity but are actually prescribing individualized programs. The prescription often includes the intensity, duration, frequency and mode of exercise. Targets and monitoring of progression are important and may include things like heart rate or perceived exertion. Each exercise plan should be safe, effective, affordable and attainable for each person.
Programs are available throughout the community to “fill” an exercise prescription. Whether it’s a personal trainer at your local gym or the YMCA or a healthcare provider at a local family health team, you can find a variety of programs to suit your individual needs. Your physician should approve any new exercise program especially if you have a chronic condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis or mobility issues. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to exercise so be sure to find the program that best suits your needs, condition and current abilities.
Making the move to become more active may be difficult for some. Change doesn’t always occur easily. And for change to occur there has to be a motivation to change, the ability to change and a trigger to kick start the new behavior. Unfortunately, sometimes all three of those components require a life altering event or scare to occur. But why wait? Make the change now. Get ahead of the game and start your own “exercise prescription”. It may be the best medicine you ever take.
Lesley Paul, B.Sc. Phm
Lesley Paul, Pharmacist