"Exercise is medicine"
By Kelly Nicholas, Bachelor of Applied Science in Human Movement, Bachelor of Health Science in Paramedicine
Each year, I love to research the fitness trends for the forthcoming year. It's fascinating how much the industry has evolved and adapted over time and still continues to prosper; even through global pandemics! So when I started to look at what we should expect to see in 2021, a recurring theme kept popping up - "Exercise is medicine." So what does this refer to?
Exercise is medicine is a global initiative lead by the American College of Sports Medicine. In Australia, it's managed by Exercise & Sports Science Australia and their vision is "To make physical activity and exercise a standard component of chronic disease prevention and management." (source http://exerciseismedicine.com.au/about-us-2/)
They want to encourage general practitioners, practice nurses and allied health professionals to make a physical activity or exercise assessment a part of their interaction with every patient, every visit. Why you might ask? Well here's some interesting data for you:
- One in two Australians suffer from chronic disease, which is responsible for 83 per cent of all premature deaths in Australia, and accounts for 66 per cent of the burden of disease.
- Treating chronic disease costs the Australian community an estimated $27 billion annually, accounting for more than a third of our national health budget. Australia only spends $2 billion on preventive health each year.
- Chronic diseases include:
- cardiovascular conditions (such as coronary heart disease and stroke) •
- cancers (such as lung and colorectal cancer)
- many mental disorders (such as depression)
- many respiratory diseases (including asthma and COPD)
- musculoskeletal diseases (arthritis and osteoporosis) •
- chronic kidney disease
- oral diseases.
- Chronic diseases are closely associated with modifiable risk factors such as smoking, physical inactivity, poor nutrition and the harmful use of alcohol.
- Each year there are more than a quarter of a million admissions to hospital for health problems that potentially could have been prevented.
It has been widely recognised that there is a shortfall in our primary health care system when it comes to managing chronic health conditions. Australia actually ranks very poorly compared to other developed countries for preventive health. So why the push for more physical activity? Well it's been routinely publicised the holistic benefits of exercise. Now whilst many of us appreciate the benefits and have access to fitness centers, there is definitely a bias when it comes to socioeconomics. Those who live in lower socio-economic areas are more at risk of chronic health conditions and often have less access to public health. By encouraging all demographics to be physically active and refer them on to appropriate allied health professionals, we may be able to help mitigate the huge burden that chronic disease places on our healthcare system. Here's a few benefits of exercise on some of the most common chronic health conditions: (source http://exerciseismedicine.com.au/factsheets/)
- Increasing physical activity can reduce the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes by almost 60% in people at risk
- In terms of cardiovascular disease, exercise can: prevent the blood vessels from narrowing further (anti-atherosclerotic), prevents blood clotting (antithrombotic), helps deliver blood to the heart (anti-ischaemic), and helps to maintain a normal heart rhythm (antiarrhythmic).
- Exercise plays an important role in the treatment of, and recovery from, colon cancer, through reducing the number and severity of treatment-related side effects and symptoms (such as pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and cognitive impairment), as well as improving or maintaining function during and after treatment.
- People who undertake regular physical activity or exercise, even at very low levels, are less likely to experience symptoms of depression and are less likely to experience future depressive episodes.
Now these are just a few benefits but imagine the changes we could make if we use 'exercise as medicine.' As a registered health care professional, I love this initiative and cannot stress enough the benefits of being physically active. So many chronic health conditions are bought on by modifiable risk factors BUT you can change that! In fact some are reversible through lifestyle changes! So lets start 2021 with renewed vigor and determination and focus on being a healthier version of you.