FIT­NESS is drug-free medicine

New Zealand Fitness - - FIT FOOD -

Reg­u­lar ex­er­cise and im­proved lev­els of fit­ness are just as ef­fec­tive as medicines in help­ing with nearly all non­com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases treated to­day.

“These in­clude car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, di­a­betes and even de­men­tia. In fact fit­ness seems to be a stronger pre­dic­tor of how long you will live than your weight,” said Univer­sity of Otago as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor Jim Cot­ter, a key­note speaker at the re­cent Pub­lic Health As­so­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence in Dunedin.

“We are re­ally only scratch­ing the sur­face in our un­der­stand­ing of how ex­er­cise works. Its ef­fects are ex­tremely com­plex, act­ing ben­e­fi­cially on just about all bod­ily sys­tems and struc­tures and we know ex­er­cise is most po­tent when it is rel­a­tively stren­u­ous.

“The no­tion of ex­er­cise be­ing an ef­fec­tive ther­apy in the pre­ven­tion and treat­ment of sev­eral dis­eases is not new, but the ev­i­dence has mounted rapidly across the last half cen­tury, cul­mi­nat­ing in the ex­plicit term “ex­er­cise is medicine” – as trade­marked by the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Sports Medicine.

It need not have costs or sig­nif­i­cant bar­ri­ers, like medicines of­ten do, and the Govern­ment, it was sug­gested, should con­sider whether ex­er­cise should in fact be for­malised into Phar­mac pol­icy.

“As our knowl­edge grows we should be able to pre­scribe suit­able ex­er­cise as an al­ter­na­tive or ad­junct ap­proach for peo­ple who can’t or don’t gain these ben­e­fi­cial as­pects by do­ing stren­u­ous ac­tiv­ity or reg­u­lar man­ual work,” said the as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor.

“It may even be pos­si­ble to in­tro­duce stress in other ways – such as saunas – to pro­voke the same sort of phys­i­cal re­ac­tions in­volved with ex­er­cise for peo­ple who are un­able to be ac­tive.

“Strate­gies for in­cor­po­rat­ing these prin­ci­ples into peo­ple’s lives need to be con­sid­ered by gov­ern­ments and town plan­ners in con­junc­tion with com­mu­nity groups and so­cial and bi­o­log­i­cal sci­ence re­searchers, be­cause reg­u­lat­ing the food en­vi­ron­ment and chang­ing the way peo­ple eat is only part of the pic­ture to­wards long-term health and well­be­ing.”

He said Dunedin was a per­fect ex­am­ple where much could be done with its ac­tive trans­port, hills, small ge­og­ra­phy, won­der­ful green space and proac­tive coun­cil.

Jim Cot­ter is an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor at the School of Phys­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion, Sport and Ex­er­cise Sciences, Univer­sity of Otago and an ac­cred­ited ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­o­gist with the na­tional pro­fes­sional body – Sport & Ex­er­cise Sci­ence New Zealand.

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