When we go to the family doctor, we usually expect to have a prescription for medication given to us to help us feel better. What if the doctors wrote prescriptions for exercise, too? It would be no surprise if our orthopedist prescribed physical therapy to fix a knee injury, arthritis, or shoulder pain, because we know that is a necessary component to healing. It is also necessary to engage in regular exercise to remain as healthy as possible. While medications can help keep issues at bay, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, staying active is even better. The American College of Sports Medicine has started a program called “Exercise is Medicine” which is a way for family doctors and those in the healthcare industry to encourage activity in their patients. Doctors are being asked to participate in lifestyle and exercise changes, too, to provide a positive example to patients. Most of us know and understand that exercise is beneficial and vital to our health, but we often have no idea how to go about it. One person’s idea of exercise could be walking around the block, while another’s is lifting weights and training for marathons. Both are fine, but they might not be the exercises that you need to help with any physical issues, or your health in general. If a patient has knee pain, deep squats and lunges are discouraged, while calf raises and leg lifts are encouraged. Many Americans believe they are getting enough exercise but studies show that only about 10% of adults are actually getting the minimum recommended amount of activity. Part of the problem is having no direction to begin. While the word “exercise” may seem like a four letter word, so many people acknowledge how much better they feel after engaging in some physical activity.Exercise can be prescribed for almost any issue. Depression can be lessened through aerobic exercise as moving the body releases endorphins which reduce stress and pain. Yoga helps with anxiety problems and is a great way to help the body relax.
Asthmatics can benefit from doing exercise later in the morning when attacks are least prevalent. Shoulder injuries can benefit from exercises that help straighten the posture and sit in the right position. Major health care businesses are beginning to incorporate exercise and accountability in patient consultations. Kaiser Permanente has a program called “Exercise as a Vital Sign” and includes the minutes a week the patients exercise with the vital signs, like blood pressure, temperature, weight, and pulse. The doctors discuss with patients what type of exercises would be best for each patient.
Doctors would much rather prescribe exercise than another medication to control blood pressure cholesterol, or diabetes. The lower the amount of medications we need to take, the better we will feel, and the healthier our bodies can become. Exercise is not a cure all for every ailment, but getting over the initial trepidation of starting a program is the first step. If you have questions about exercise or are faced with shoulder or knee pain, contact our sports medicine specialists at Orthopedic Surgery San Diego.