Exercise is medicine for chronic disease

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Researchers across the world have been studying the effects of exercise on the human body since the late 1800s. Physical activity has long been known as pivotal for improving health and preventing disease.

‘Exercise is Medicine’ is a global movement which encourages healthcare providers to prescribe exercise as an option for treating various diseases (1).

Due to this, a growing profession involving qualified clinical exercise physiologists has emerged around the world.

These practitioners are knowledgeable about different health conditions and how to safely prescribe exercise for individuals with chronic disease, and as such, numerous tertiary institutions in New Zealand are now offering this as field of study.

Research indicates that physical activity in the right dose can manage, prevent and treat numerous chronic diseases. Psychiatric, neurological, metabolic, cardiovascular, and pulmonary diseases, musculoskeletal disorders and cancer are chronic diseases which are all proven to benefit from exercise.

A comprehensive analysis of the research literature (2), discusses the effect that exercise therapy has on the pathophysiology and symptoms of disease.

Up-to-date, evidence-based recommendations for type, duration and intensity of exercise have been reported for 26 different chronic diseases with research showing how each these diseases can benefit from exercise therapy (see Pedersen & Saltin, 2015).

High blood pressure, a common condition in the Western population, is a significant risk factor for stroke, heart attack and heart failure.

Studies show that there is a strong link between lowering blood pressure and decreasing the risk of death. Research has shown that endurance exercise, and resistance training both lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

A drop by as little as 20mmHg in systolic blood pressure or 10mmHg in diastolic blood pressure has been found to half the risk of death from cardiovascular disease (2).

The World Health Organisation reports that more than 80 percent of the world’s adolescent population and one in four people worldwide are not sufficiently active (3).

There are growing health problems in New Zealand and Australia linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

I encourage you to seek out experienced exercise professionals who can counsel and guide you on a journey to find how physical activity can be included in your lifestyle to reduce your risk of disease and improve health, wellness and longevity.

While exercise has been shown to benefit numerous chronic diseases, it is important to always seek medical advice and clearance from your GP or specialist before undertaking any new exercise regimes.


1. Retrieved September 21, 2016 from http://www.exerciseismedicine.org/support_page.php/evidence-for-eim/
2. Pedersen, BK & Saltin, B. (2015). Exercise as medicine – evidence for prescribing exercise as therapy in 26 different chronic diseases. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. (Suppl. 3) 25: 1 – 72.
3. Retrieved September 21, 2016 from ttp://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs385/en/

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