Michigan Association of Health Plans

Exercise as medicine: An expert shares the important health benefits of exercise.

This story is from the University of Michigan Health Blog. Read more here.

These days, there’s no shortage of information about the benefits of exercise, yet physical inactivity is the fastest-growing public health problem in the United States

In fact, nearly half of all U.S. adults do not meet the recommended daily allowance for physical activity and nearly one-third report doing less than 10 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week.

Yet, studies show that as little as 20 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each day can help keep you healthy, including lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer, among other benefits.

These studies support the premise behind “Exercise Is Medicine,” an initiative of the American College of Sports Medicine based on a concept that has existed since ancient civilization.

Throughout the centuries, many more health professionals have upheld the belief that exercise is medicine.

Kristen Schuyten, D.P.T., a physical therapy clinical specialist at University of Michigan Health MedSport, is one of them.

“Staying active reduces the risk of disease and can improve the quality and longevity of your life. Even if you have a family history of some type of disease, activity can help minimize your risk. And active individuals who undergo surgery often bounce back more quickly than those who are inactive.”

Weighing the benefits

According to the Exercise Is Medicine organization, regular physical activity can:

  • Reduce mortality and the risk of recurrent breast cancer by approximately 50%
  • Lower the risk of colon cancer by over 60%
  • Reduce the risk of developing of Alzheimer’s disease by approximately 40%
  • Reduce the incidence of heart disease and high blood pressure by approximately 40%
  • Lower the risk of stroke by 27%
  • Lower the risk of developing type II diabetes by 58%

But, exercise looks different to everyone, says Schuyten, who works with a variety of patients – from those wanting to begin a safe exercise program to competitive athletes and performing artists (think dancers, figure skaters and gymnasts) who want to keep functioning at a high level.

“The best thing is to begin being active at a young age and make it a lifelong commitment,” said Schuyten, “but it’s never too late to start.”

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