You know exercise is good for you. But most people don’t know how good. As it turns out, today many doctors prescribe exercise in much the same way as they prescribe medicine — with specific purposes and goals focused on your individual health needs.
At Orange Orthopaedic Associates, board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon James M. Lee Jr, MD, believes strongly in the benefits of regular physical activity for our patients. Here’s what he’d like you to know about the benefits of exercise and how exercise as medicine can help you enjoy better health.
Exercise as medicine? Yes
Using exercise as a medicine might sound like a new idea, but it actually dates back thousands of years. Then as now, human health depended on staying active in order to ward off diseases and feel better.
One way to really understand the medical value of exercise is to look at the harmful effects of inactivity. Being physically inactive or exercising too little has been linked to an array of health problems, including increased risks of:
Conversely, exercise has medical benefits to help reduce those risks and even reverse them.
Exercise improves health by:
- Improving circulation (and delivery of oxygen and nutrients)
- Decreasing inflammation
- Keeping joints lubricated
- Releasing feel-good endorphins
- Improving heart and lung function
- Aiding digestion
- Helping maintain a healthy weight
Can you think of any medicine that offers this many benefits? And exercise does it all without the risk of side effects, allergic reaction, or other complications. It’s a safe, effective way to tap into your body’s natural ability to heal and stay healthy.
So many benefits
In addition to reducing your risk of the serious medical problems listed above, exercise offers other benefits for your overall health.
Aches and pains
Your body is designed to move, so when movement is limited, your joints start to stiffen and stop functioning the way they’re supposed to. Ligaments, muscles, and tendons are also affected by limited activity, leading to an increased risk of aches and pains that become more common — and more intrusive — as you age.
When you’re feeling fatigued, you may think napping sounds much more attractive than exercising. But plenty of fatigue comes not from exertion, but from being inactive.
When you sit around, your respiration rate slows, so your tissues don't get enough oxygen. The result is fatigue, and the way to banish it is to get some exercise.
Remember those feel-good endorphins we mentioned above? They’re natural mood enhancers, and they’re the same chemicals responsible for what’s known as the “runner’s high.”
Regular exercise helps your body produce more of those chemicals to battle the symptoms of depression.
Exercise boosts your ability to fight off diseases by improving your overall health, and it can decrease the risk of respiratory illnesses by keeping your lungs healthy.
Researchers also think moderate exercise may increase production of special cells designed to fight illnesses and prevent infections.
Decreased risk of falls and fractures
Weight-bearing exercises improve bone density, making them especially important as you age. They also help build strong muscles to improve your balance and decrease the risk of falls, a leading cause of injury and even death among older people.
Plus, we can recommend exercise with other medical treatments without any risk of complications.
Benefits for all
Those are just some of the ways exercise acts like a medicine, but there are a couple ways it differs: Exercise doesn’t just help with existing problems — it’s preventive, too. In order to gain the most benefits, keep exercising even when you’re feeling great.
Yes, the type of exercise and the frequency recommendations may change as your health needs change. But the bottom line remains the same: You need focused physical activity on a regular basis to reap the many benefits it offers you at every age and every stage of life.
Another benefit: Many exercises, like walking, require no special equipment, which means they’re affordable for everyone.
To learn how Dr. Lee can help you get started on your exercise journey, book an appointment online or over the phone today at our office in West Orange or Bayonne, New Jersey.