Is Exercise as Effective as Medication?

As a healthcare provider, I am constantly concerned with making sure that my patients are always up to date with the newest information.  One question I am asked consistently is if there is anything that my patients can do to help get off the numerous medications they are taking.  A recent study published in the British Medical Journal sought to answer just that.  According to the study, exercise does appear to be as effective as medication in many instances.

The Benefits of Exercise

As humans, we often look at exercise as something we should do to look better or feel better.  While exercise will in fact do those things, the benefits of exercise go far beyond just aesthetics.  In fact, we should view exercise more as a genetic requirement for health.  If we don’t exercise, we are incapable of expressing health to the fullest within ourselves.  Most people think the benefits of exercise come from the release of endorphins or the extra calorie burn, but the greatest benefits of exercise come due to the effect of movement on our brain.  In fact, Roger Sperry won a Nobel Prize when he discovered that 90% of brain activation comes from movement of the spine.  This is one reason why we are so successful as chiropractors.  If we increase the function of the brain, then we also increase the function of every other cell, tissue, and organ in our bodies.  In Dr. Daniel Amen’s book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,  he discusses how in certain patients he has seen by just adding exercise in, patients are able to function at a higher capacity and in some cases reverse things such as depression and other neuro related disorders.  He notes how psychiatrists actually won’t prescribe exercise because they can’t monitor exactly which hormone (seratonin, melatonin, dopamine, etc.) is off and corrects.  The great thing about exercise is that it correctly regulates all of them, not just one.

What Exercises Are Best?

A lot of exercise depends on your goals.  However, there are certain exercises that I believe should be performed on a consistent basis.  Squats should be a regular part of your routine.  As we move throughout the day, we squat in many different instances.  Whether it’s going to the bathroom, getting in and out of your car, or getting up and down from your chair at work, squatting is integral to correct daily movement.  Another quality movement would be shoulder retractions.  We live in a world where we are constantly sitting with rounded shoulders watching tv, on the computer, or our phones, i-Pad’s, etc.  To perform a shoulder retraction stand as tall as possible with your arms by your side, look up high, rotate your hands outward and squeeze between the shoulder blades.  Hold for a second, release and repeat.  As well, we need to focus on mobility of our shoulder joints.  You should daily reach over your your head as high as possible and working to keep your biceps muscles as close to your ears as possible.  For cardiovascular health, there has been a lot of information released recently regarding interval training.  One study in the Journal of Metabolism showed a 9x increase in fat burning doing high intensity intervals.  I would recommend doing these at least 2 days/week with a 30 second intense phase and a 60 second active rest phase.  Perform 8 rounds of this after a solid warm up to get the best results possible.  Don’t forget to work in a day of aerobic training to maintain all levels of fitness.  As well, we should all do some form of strength training.  It doesn’t matter if you CrossFit, go to your local gym, or workout at your house, find something heavy and move/lift it.  Always try to push yourself to be better.

Do Something

If you aren’t exercising, taking on any kind of exercise regimen may seem a little difficult.  Remember this, doing something is always better than doing nothing.  Find a trail you like and walk it.  Grab a bike and ride for awhile.  Wrestle with your kids.  Take up P90X or something of that fashion.  Whatever you do, commit to being consistent and you will be amazed at the results you will see.

Now that you’re done reading, GET UP AND MOVE!!!

Yours in Health,

Dr. James Ashley, DC

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