Doctors Prescribe Exercise: The Benefits of Physical Activity

During the week of May 3rd to 11th, 2014, doctors throughout British Columbia will be promoting physical activity and literally walking the talk with their patients in a variety of community events.

On Saturday, May 3rd, the Doctors of B.C. (formerly the B.C. Medical Association) will kick off the week with a free and fun 2 km walk at Kitsilano Beach Park in Vancouver at 9:30 am. I’ll be there with many of my colleagues along with our patients.

Even if your doctor isn’t there, you’re welcome to attend. All members of the public are invited, but come early to get your free pedometer. For more information about this event, check online at www.bcma.org/walk-with-your-doc.

Throughout this month, doctors across the province will be writing prescriptions for exercise, encouraging patients of every age to be physically active.

To celebrate the World Health Organization’s Move for Health Day on Saturday, May 10th, the City of Burnaby has organized a large number of free events including community walks in many of our neighbourhoods, canoe lessons, boot camp, swimming and the grand opening of the outdoor fitness circuit at Central Park. For more information check the City’s website at http://www.burnaby.ca.

Why the big push for everyone to be more active?

Here are 7 proven benefits of regular physical activity.

1. It decreases your risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. Exercise also plays an important role in managing and improving chronic health conditions.

2. Physical activity prevents weight gain and can help maintain a healthy weight. It complements healthy nutrition.

3. It improves the fitness of your heart, lungs and muscles. Regular physical activity conditions your body to function better making everyday activities easier.

4. Regular physical activity prevents falls and improves cognition in older adults. When your limbs and brain are accustomed to movement, your balance, agility and ability to react improve. When blood flows better throughout your body, it also provides better circulation to the brain. A healthy body promotes a healthy brain.

5. Weight bearing activity (i.e. walking) helps maintain bone density, reducing your risk for osteoporosis and fractures.

6. Exercise improves sleep. Although vigorous exercise just before hopping into bed may be too stimulating, activity earlier in the day can improve the quality of your sleep.

7. Physical activity improves emotional wellbeing. For a number of years, psychiatrists have been prescribing exercise to their patients suffering from the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Exercise has been shown to reduce stress hormones, such as cortisol, and increase endorphins which are natural painkillers and feel-good chemicals. Exercise also promotes a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence. Physical activity can provide social benefits; you can meet regularly with friends to keep you motivated or make new like-minded friends while enjoying your spin class, swim or Zumba sessions.

Our bodies were meant to move. When we don’t, our health suffers; when we do, we thrive.

Over the next week, look for simple ways you can increase your level of physical activity. You could walk or bike to school or work – or simply get off the bus a few blocks further from your destination. You could buy a bright new umbrella, embrace our rainy days and choose to do an extra walk each day. Take the stairs when you can.

At home, walk while you talk on the phone. Spend less time in front of the computer or TV but move around while you watch your favourite shows. Dance with the music you love.

In upcoming columns, I’ll discuss specific exercise recommendations, the risks of exercise and tips on staying motivated and achieving your fitness goals.

Drs. Davidicus Wong, Karime Mitha and Shelley Ross at the BCMA's Walk With Your Doc May 4th, 2013

 

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About Davidicus Wong

I am a family physician. I write a weekly newspaper column, Healthwise for the Vancouver Courier, Burnaby Now, Royal City Record and Richmond News.
This entry was posted in Balance, Emotions, Empowering Healthcare, Exercise, patient-doctor relationship, Physical Activity, Positive Change, Preventive Health, Your Goals and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Doctors Prescribe Exercise: The Benefits of Physical Activity

  1. Chris H. says:

    I went dancing 3 times last week. Hope to this week. Trying to walk more especially with nicer weather.

  2. Robert says:

    Being a diabetic, I cannot stress enough the importance of exercise and the positive effects it has. I look at an exercise session(tennis is my gig) as the equivalent as a couple of units of insulin.

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