Exercise IS Medicine!
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Mike Alpert, Claremont Club President & CEO
Over the years, it seems that the number of people who are affected by chronic illness has grown exponentially from when I was a kid. Back then, we never heard of Alzheimer's or Dementia. Obesity rates were so much lower, and so were the offshoots from it. Although people did die from cancer and heart disease, it certainly did not seem like it affected so many people in any community as it does today. And, back then, we ate meat and potatoes; drank whole grade D milk, had eggs several times a week and drank Coca-Cola. And, let's not forget the candy bars that every kid devoured: Baby Ruth, Snickers, Almond Joy, Butterfingers and the list goes on and on. What changed?
Back then, we grew up in neighborhoods where not many kids came from homes that spoiled them with money and material things. I can't even imagine asking my Dad for $85 to go skiing for a day or money to play golf. We played all day because there was nothing else to do. We were outside at the baseball field or basketball courts and didn't come home until dinner time. There were no computers or cell phones and no internet. We had one television set in the house, and most of us fought with our siblings over which show we would watch in the evenings or weekends. And, our mothers made food from scratch. There were very little, if any, boxed foods served. It also seems that there were many less pesticides and additives used to preserve food for longer shelf life. One thing is for sure: kids were much more active, and we ate better foods. And, when we went out for lunch or dinner, we were not "super" sized.
Then, there was the real estate boom and inflation that put so much pressure on households to have dual wage earners. Basics like food, gasoline and cars began to spike in prices, and it seems that we got consumed with material things. So, we worked longer hours, and as a result, we had less and less time for exercise and family.
So, the question that comes to my mind is this: Are these changes in lifestyle related to the increase in chronic illness that we see year after year? I think that they are directly related to this. Take a look at Alzheimer's Disease. For the longest time, the scientists' and physicians' belief was that we were born with certain neurons in our brains and that, as we aged, we began to lose these neurons and our brain began to shrink. But, today, with very sophisticated cognitive MRIs, we now know that, if a person exercises and stays active, their brain actually grows as they age, and it grows in key areas, those that affect Alzheimer's and Dementia. We also know the powerful affect that exercise has on health. We know that people who exercise regularly and eat healthy reduce their chances of heart and lung disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes, hypertension and a myriad of other chronic illnesses.
If we know all this to be true, why have we taken physical activity out of schools? Why are there not national and local television and media coverage and campaigns to get America healthy by exercise? Why is it that every physician in our country is not prescribing Exercise instead of costly prescriptions and procedures? Healthcare is a mess in our country, and it needs to re-focus on the solution: Exercise and healthy eating habits. We are the magic Pill! Exercise IS Medicine!
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