January 4, 2014

WELL, I’M TRYIN’ HERE: The Exercise Cure: How can we motivate people to take a free, safe, magic pill?

If there were a drug that treated and prevented the chronic diseases that afflict Americans and we didn’t give it to everyone, we’d be withholding a magic pill. If this drug was free, in a country that spends more than $350 billion annually on prescription drugs, where the average 80-year-old takes eight medications, we’d be foolish not to encourage this cheaper and safer alternative as first-line treatment. If every doctor in every country around the world didn’t prescribe this drug for every patient, it might almost be considered medical malpractice.

We have that drug today, and it’s safe, free, and readily available.

Exercise has benefits for every body system; it is effective both as a treatment and for prevention of disease. It can improve memory and concentration, lessen sleep disorders, aid heart disease by lowering cholesterol and reducing blood pressure, help sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction, and raise low libido. Exercise does it all. Even with cancer, particularly colon and recurrent breast cancer, the data show clearly that exercise is a deterrent. Newer studies on a glycoprotein called Interleukin 6 suggests that general body inflammation, a factor in almost every chronic disease, is reduced by regular exercise.

The problem is that while when you’re used to exercising, it feels good, when you start exercising it usually feels bad. And it takes longer for that to change than most people are willing to wait.