Why Don’t Doctors Prescribe Exercise to Their Patients if Exercise Is Medicine?

by | Feb 20, 2022 | General Medical News, Issue 139, Issues | 0 comments

Exercising can be a chore sometimes, but it's super important for your overall health! Not only does it benefit each of your body systems, but it also is helpful for...

Exercising can be a chore sometimes, but it’s super important for your overall health! Not only does it benefit each of your body systems, but it also is helpful for your mental health. Now, you’re probably wondering, since it’s so helpful, why your doctor doesn’t just prescribe you exercise. Well, we have a few explanations for this, as well as information on how exercising is beneficial for you. 



Exercise Benefits

Just the thought of exercising sounds like a ton of work. Nevertheless, exercising can have a lasting impact on your health. Not only will it keep you healthy, but it will also help you live a more wholesome life. 



Physical Health Benefits

Several health risks are reduced through routine physical activity, such as cancer, dementia, other mental issues that come with age and cardiovascular issues. For example, studies show routine physical activity can lower the risk of colon cancer between 17% and 30% and breast cancer risk by 20% to 30%

Exercising for at least 30 minutes at least five days a week reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases since physical activity improves cholesterol levels and can lower blood pressure. Additionally, exercise reduces factors associated with metabolic disorders can be a combination of being overweight, having high blood pressure, low HDL, high triglycerides or high blood sugar

Exercise on its own is essential. However, if you’re looking to lose weight, it’s important to balance calories, too. Studies suggest that exercising for 30 minutes at least five days a week can help with weight loss. Aerobic exercises are among the recommended exercises for weight loss since they mix in the cardiovascular exercises necessary to get your heart pumping. 

Exercise is also beneficial for bone, joint and muscular health since they become strengthened when you engage in vigorous physical activity. Activities to strengthen muscles and bones include running, brisk walking, jumping jacks and strength training. The more you exercise, the healthier and stronger you’ll be as you age.

Mental Health Benefits

Exercise has been shown to improve cognition in children since it keeps the brain alert and reduces anxiety and depression in adults. Studies report brain health improvement after physical activities. Studies also show that exercise can prevent or reduce the risk of dementia and Parkinson’s disease.



Reasons Your Doctor Might Not Be Talking about Exercising

Physicians often forget to prescribe exercise to patients more often than not. Studies cite a lack of training at the undergraduate level. The doctors’ physical activity level is another reason physicians fail to prescribe exercise to patients.

In 2015, the Canadian Medical Association noted that medical students and residents reported insufficient competency in prescribing exercise to their patients upon graduation. However, prescribing exercise has been effective in increasing how much people exercise.

Communication barriers such as physician bias against overweight patients and overweight physicians feeling unqualified to communicate about exercise prevent healthy discussions about exercise. In addition, studies show that overweight physicians provided less generalized health advice than colleagues who were at a normal weight.

Another issue doctors have come across is ensuring their patients follow their exercise prescriptions. Cardiologist David Sabgir, M.D., noted that while he attempted prescribing exercise, he saw little success. As a result, he founded Walk With a Doc, a group that pairs patients with doctors for walks to get patients to exercise and engage with physicians. President of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Cate Collings, M.D., says doctors need to be more specific in their exercise prescriptions, so patients know what to do, how long and how often for their particular condition.



A Parting Reminder

Exercising can reduce the risks for various complications, and the sooner you start, the better! As you age, your body will be susceptible to more health complications. However, you’ll be healthier and feel better once you make a routine of engaging in physical activity. 

The communication barrier that causes doctors and patients to exercise can prevent patients from getting the push they need to engage in the physical activity they need. So, next time you’re in your doctor’s office, talk to them about your concerns. Take the first step and reduce that barrier!

Adreana Mendez

Adreana Mendez