Exercise is Medicine!
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President John F. Kennedy famously said, "Those who look only at the past or present are certain to miss the future." The future is indeed here! The compelling importance continues to grow as to the role of active and healthy lifestyles in the prevention, treatment and management of chronic conditions that are often the result of sedentary behaviors. The science of exercise has long demonstrated the benefits of physical activity for health, cognitive function, productivity in the workplace and much more. The medical benefits of adequate activity can allow people to shape their own health destiny, and for those with chronic conditions, it can help manage, reduce or even resolve those challenges. Exercise is clearly a preventive medicine, holding the key to health, quality of life and work productivity. The current transition of medicine in recognizing the importance of exercise and lifestyle for chronic conditions and injuries is as important as other phases of major change in healthcare.
With all this in mind, the question is often asked, "How do I begin offering programs in my club to promote Exercise is Medicine?" My advice is to understand and accomplish the following:
1. You first need to define what population you are focusing on. Are you developing a program for people affected by cancer, diabetes, paralysis or anxiety and depression. It is critical to remember that many of the people who are struggling with chronic injuries or chronic illnesses have also seen their finances depleted. Many are unable to work, and in many cases, they have lost their ability to care for their families. So, get into this for the right reasons; don't just look at this as a way to boost your bottom line. Understand what moves the bottom line: creating and maintaining meaningful, purposeful work. It will change everyone's lives and will lead to retention of both your members and your staff, and that will have a huge effect on your bottom line.
2. Do your homework on the injury/illness your program is focused on. If your program involves people affected by paralysis (i.e., spinal cord injury, stroke, ALS, etc.), you need education on how to transfer the person who has no feeling at certain levels safely. With ALS, you need to know when they are in distress, etc. You need to focus 100% on safety at all times. It is also very important to know what markers you will be looking at and what results you are tracking.
3. It is critical to build strong relationships based on trust with key physicians and hospital CEOs in your community. They should be a major source of education, and you need to keep them in the loop at all times. You should also be developing relationships with school superintendents and city officials as they will become your voice and ambassadors in your community. Keep in mind that all of this takes patience and time. And, they must feel that:
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