Exercise: everyone’s life-long prescription for health
February 21, 2011 —
Forget about pills, drugs and their side effects. According to Dr. James M. Pivarnik, Ph.D., there is only one prescription that everyone needs to fill: a prescription for exercise.
As president of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), Pivarnik has spent the better half of his career studying and preaching the powers of physical activity through the Exercise Is Medicine (EIM) initiative.
Students and faculty filled the Ott Auditorium Wednesday, Feb. 16, to listen to his lecture about the EIM program and the ACSM.
With more than 40,000 members worldwide, the ACSM explores the benefits of sports and exercise medicine through scientific research, education and practical applications. The group works closely with other organizations, including the International Association for Worksite Health Promotion (IAWHP) and the Clinical Exercise Physiology Association (CEPA), to provide opportunities for students hoping to enter the exercise medicine job market.
Pivarnik said that the EIM movement originated thanks to Dr. Robert E. Sallis, a strong supporter of exercise being “your one prescription that could prevent and treat dozens of diseases.
He said that quite simply, exercise is “your prescription for health.”
According to him, research has shown that health issues such as heart disease, strokes and breast cancer can be prevented with physical activity. Physical health is not the only part of a person’s overall health that exercise can benefit a person, though. Focusing on improving mental health is also a large part of the EIM movement.
Pivarnik shared the secret ingredients behind exercise as a form of medicine. He said that exercise is “great” for the cardiovascular system because it helps improve vessel health.
He also said that exercise helps lower hormonal swings and lowers a person’s physical response to stress, but that exercise ultimately “improves quality of life.” He also said that exercise can cut down on costs associated with medications. Exercise, according to the Michigan government, can counteract the multibilliondollar cost of health problems as a result of physical inactivity in the state alone.
But just how much physical activity do we need?
Pivarnik said that the answer has never been made clear. Information can be misleading about how many days a week we should exercise, but his numbers showed a simpler answer. We should all spend at least 150 minutes per week participating in moderate physical activity spread out over the entire week, including the weekend.
Research has shown that 65 percent of patients would take doctor advice to exercise more often. Pivarnik and Sallis have pushed this statistic on physicians in the California area to allow patient discussion about exercise as a form of preventative medicine. They spread this message with EIM resources and toolkits available such as the Exercise Readiness Prescription, which outlines exercise options and requirements for patients.
Pivarnik said that he hopes this mindset will make its way into other aspects of the medical industry, including education.
“The most difficult task will be introducing it into medical school curriculum,” he said.
He has already begun this process by bringing EIM to college campuses across the U.S. with programs similar to SVSU’s Healthy U program. So far, he’s found that collegiate institutions have aspects of intellectual, financial, emotional and physical health which they must address. The EIM initiative can be an important factor that helps colleges promote physical health in students and staff.
Jeremy Knous, professor of kinesiology, and Lindsay Donaldson, exercise science senior, coordinated the event. Knous felt that promoting exercise as preventative medicine is important because “preventative medicine outweighs having to take meds after the fact.”
Josh Ode, assistant professor of kinesiology, said that he’s a strong supporter of the EIM initiative. He likes the program because staying physically active is available “for everyone.”
Knous agreed with the message that exercise is important for overall health.
“Lace up your shoelaces and choose to work out,” he said.