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Commentary: Time for Doctors to Prescribe Exercise

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Joe MooreJoe Moore

The prescription pad is a powerful tool, and doctors need to start using it for more than just ordering medications. They need to prescribe exercise.

America is facing unprecedented epidemics of obesity and widespread physical inactivity. Chronic diseases remain the leading cause of death and disability in the United States despite the fact that most of those afflicted with these illnesses could have stayed well if only they had exercised regularly and made healthier lifestyle choices.

Yet, while doctors continue to write more than 3.4 billion prescriptions each year and mention medications during more than 70 percent of their office visits, the vast majority of physicians are neither prescribing nor talking to their patients about the real wonder drug, exercise.

At the proper moderate intensity, regular exercise significantly improves overall health. Moderate intensity exercise can be achieved with a brisk walk that begins to elevate the heart and respiratory rates, making it difficult to sustain a note while singing, yet it is not so strenuous that the individual is out of breath and cannot talk. The benefits are numerous as moderate intensity exercise reduces the risk of heart disease by 40 percent; lowers the risk of stroke by 27 percent; reduces the incidence of high blood pressure by almost 50 percent; reduces the incidence of diabetes by almost 50 percent; can reduce mortality and the risk of recurrent breast cancer by almost 50 percent; can lower the risk of colon cancer by over 60 percent; can reduce the risk of developing of Alzheimer's disease by one-third; and can decrease depression as effectively as medications or behavioral therapy, says Exercise is Medicine, a global initiative calling on physicians to assess and review every patient's physical activity program at every visit.

The only problem with these statistics is that too many of us ignore them.

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