It makes me chuckle a bit when people tell me they don't need to exercise.
Do they actually have a legitimate reason for believing that they don't need to exercise, or is it an excuse? Remember that an excuse is simply a lie we tell ourselves.
So the question is, have you been making excuses, or do you legitimately hold onto wrong beliefs about exercise? For example, "I'm not overweight, therefore I don't need to exercise."
The other common misconception is that people believe that in order to be healthy you need to exercise hard. Don't get me wrong, I love an intense workout, but it's usually the intense workout that scares the average person away.
The fitness industry has made exercise mostly about weight loss, and although exercise can help you lose weight there are several reasons why exercise is for everyone, regardless of your weight or dress size.
In this four-part series we will look at the deadliest diseases and how exercise can save your life. This is the reason why the medical community is getting on board with recommending exercise as medicine.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
I have seen firsthand what exercise can do for cardiac patients after just four months of exercise. Although modern medicine has made incredible strides towards the treatment and management of heart disease, it continues to be the number one killer.
Oh, by the way, I hate the term "management of disease." Wouldn't you rather prevent it than manage it? Studies have shown that 90% of CAD risk comes from the modifiable risk factors such as smoking, diet, and exercise (1).
Patients who have been diagnosed with CAD or at high risk of CAD may be prescribed an assortment of medications. These medications have been shown to either decrease blood pressure, decrease resting heart rate, decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad" cholesterol), and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good" cholesterol.) The interesting thing about all these medications is that exercise does all of that naturally without the nasty side effects.
Medications have not yet been developed to strengthen the heart and lungs, but exercise can do that. There is no medication that develops collateral vessels which create better blood circulation throughout the body. But guess what? Exercise can do that. Exercise also naturally increases blood oxygen levels, and the closest way to synthetically or medically get that effect is blood doping, which is not legal...not yet at the time of this post.
Over the past 10 years I have had my finger on the pulse of cardiac research. Pardon the pulse pun, but what I mean by that is I'm simply a nerd, and I read the boring scholarly articles on the subject. I don't work as a medical professional, so at the very least my opinions are not influenced by the pharmaceutical industry.
On the other hand, I also hold great respect for those in the medical profession. I can't imagine how hard it is for a doctor to see their patients deteriorate with every appointment. It's easy to assume that if patients are not going to take the advice of their doctor to use exercise to help them lower their blood pressure, it would just be easier to prescribe something with the same goal, right?
So what happens when new research finds that what we are fighting is not what is actually causing the problem?
For example, research is now finding that cholesterol might not be the culprit that once was believed to cause CAD. The Journal of American Medical Association states that there is a lack of association between cholesterol and CAD (2). The American Heart Journal reported that over half of the 136, 905 patients hospitalized with CAD had normal levels of cholesterol (3).
Remember, I'm not the expert, I'm just the messenger. I am not telling you to go off your medication, nor do I have the authority to tell you to do so. I'm just simply telling you that with more and more research we are discovering new things every day, while finding what we once knew might not be totally correct.
So, in the mean time, while you are waiting for science to discover your magic pill, why not do what has consistently been proven to have a positive impact on your health?
You don't need to exercise hard or spend hours doing it. You just simply need to exercise because you never know...it just might save your life.
1. Effect of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with myocardial infarction in 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study. Lancet [serial online]. September 11, 2004;364(9438):937-952. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed August 26, 2014.
2. Krumholz H, Seeman T. Lack of association between cholesterol and coronary heart disease mortality and morbidity and.. JAMA: Journal Of The American Medical Association [serial online]. November 2, 1994;272(17):1335. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed August 26, 2014.
3. Amit Sachdeva, Christopher P. Cannon, Prakash C. Deedwania, Kenneth A. LaBresh, Sidney C. Smith Jr, David Dai, Adrian Hernandez, Gregg C. Fonarow, on behalf of the GWTG Steering Committee and Hospitals, Lipid levels in patients hospitalized with coronary artery disease: An analysis of 136,905 hospitalizations in Get With The Guidelines, American Heart Journal, Volume 157, Issue 1, January 2009, Pages 111-117.e2, ISSN 0002-8703, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ahj.2008.08.010.