Exercise—The Best Prescription
Harold Elrick, MDTHE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE - VOL 24 - NO. 2 - FEBRUARY 96
The human body thrives on movement, which brings pleasure and stimulates creativity. Medically, exercise stimulates blood flow and tissue growth in muscle and bone. It also relieves the fatigue of nervous tension and sedentary activity. And the benefits extend even further: Exercise is also a potent tool for preventing and treating disease.
In recent years researchers have learned a lot about the benefits of exercise. More physicians are asking about their patients' fitness levels and making specific exercise recommendations because exercise has proven to give patients an extra edge when it comes to avoiding or minimizing diseases:
Your doctor will help you plan an exercise routine that you can comfortably accommodate (see back for prescription form). You'll find it's easier to stick with your routine if the activities you choose are (1) fun and (2) accessible—meaning safe, nearby, and inexpensive.
The bulk of your exercise program will focus on aerobic activities that are moderately strenuous—for example, walking, running, cycling, or swimming. The objective is to get the lowest possible heart rate at rest (40 to 50 beats per minute) and to get 120 to 150 beats per minute during exercise. To spice up your weekly routine, your doctor will advise you to vary your program to include nonaerobic activities such as golf, bowling, gardening, or strength training.
It is important to perform stretching exercises before and after any physical activity; their purpose is to prevent muscle strains, and when performed regularly, they also increase flexibility, strength, and circulation.
Earn Extra Activity Points
Staying active throughout the day can add to your daily exercise totals. Simple ways to achieve this are to:
Remember: This information is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. Before starting an exercise program, consult a physician.
Dr Elrick was a lecturer on preventive medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston and is now director of the Foundation for Optimal Health and Longevity in Bonita, California. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians.