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Exercise IS Medicine!

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Mike AlpertMike Alpert

Exercise is a very powerful tool for both the treatment and prevention of chronic disease, for mitigating the harmful effects of obesity and for lowering mortality rates. In fact, there is a linear relationship between activity level and health status. People who maintain an active and fit way of life live longer, happier lives. In contrast, physical inactivity has an astonishing array of harmful health effects. People who are sedentary and unfit very predictably begin to suffer prematurely from chronic disease and die at a younger age. This association between disease and an inactive and unfit way of life exists in every age group: children, adults and the elderly. The results of studies consistently show that those who are active and fit are healthier. For this reason, many have suggested that physical inactivity is the major public health problem of our time.

In 2012, the journal Lancet published a series of articles that highlighted the strong connection between physical activity and health. The series reached the following conclusion, "In view of the prevalence, global reach and health effect of physical inactivity, the issue should be appropriately described as pandemic, with far-reaching health, economic, environmental and social consequences."

Years of research have provided irrefutable evidence for the benefit of exercise in the primary and secondary prevention of diabetes, cancer (especially of the breast and colon), hypertension, depression, osteoporosis, dementia and coronary artery disease. In addition, regular exercise has also been shown to dramatically lower all-cause mortality rates, and especially, cardiovascular-related mortality. Beyond all this, exercise has also been shown to significantly mitigate the harmful health effects of obesity. Most importantly, regular exercise has been shown to significantly improve the overall quality of life. People who maintain an active lifestyle are able to maintain a high functional capacity for much of their life.

With all these facts, I am at a loss for why so many people are not taking the most powerful medicine that is available to them, Exercise. If it were a pill, every doctor would prescribe it, and it would be the main topic of every news channel in every city in the world. We hear all the reasons that people avoid exercise: lack of time due to competing demands; responsibilities to their children and spouse; long work hours; physical limitations that prevent them from doing regular exercise; and some simply say that exercise is boring. In addition, we have taken physical activity out of our schools and have fed children a steady dose of the internet and cell phones. If most kids spent half the time they do on their phones and tablets being active instead, we would cut the obesity epidemic significantly.

Wellness is defined as the pursuit of physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing, and I would include spiritual as well. It is a $4.2 trillion-dollar industry and is growing faster than the global economy according to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI). We, the Health and Fitness Club Industry, need to be at the forefront and driving this. If we don't, others will.

Are you positioning your club to be able to compete in the wellness market? Do you offer educational lectures; support groups; programs for special needs members and is your club inclusive?

Exercise IS Medicine!

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