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Raising the Bar in Rehab

Is Lack of Exercise a Medical Condition?

Published September 20, 2012 5:57 PM by Lisa Mueller

Mayo Clinic physiologist Michael Joyner, MD, writes in The Journal of Physiology that physical inactivity is the root cause of many common medical problems. He continues to explain that if physical inactivity was treated as its own medical condition, physicians may be more aware of the value of prescribed exercise, including formal rehabilitation programs.

There is an abundance of research and commentary about sedentary lifestyles in our society. Drive-through services and the rapid growth of smartphones and other tech devices have minimized the amount of activity a person is required to do. Walking into a gas station to pay for gas, walking to the nearest mailbox to send a letter, walking across a parking lot to a restaurant -- these are all small activities that used to accumulate into more calories burned in one day. Now, I can't even recall the last time I went to a mailbox, I pay for my gas at the pump and if I need a quick meal I go to a drive through. In the process, I've become more sedentary and lowered my endurance to simple mobility tasks.

Dr. Joyner raises an interesting point that by identifying the root cause of common medical problems and prescribing exercise to manage or eliminate symptoms, our health care model would shift toward one aimed at prevention. Think of all the diagnoses that would benefit from a regular exercise prescription! Obesity or fibromyalgia. Lung disorders such as cystic fibrosis. Myofascial pain. The list and research of disorders benefiting from exercise and even disorders that are due to a lack of exercise continue to grow each year.

This is a wonderful time for physical therapists to educate others about our expertise in exercise prescription and our knowledge of physiology and pathologies that benefit from exercise. Our role in providing preventative care and the cost-savings associated with preventions of disease progression will be key in promoting our profession. (Look at all the P's in this paragraph! It is an alliteration miracle).

What do you think? How often do you prescribe general cardiac or other whole-body exercise for your patients? How can we educate physicians as well as the general public about the risks of inactivity?

1 comments

I do believe you have stumbled into public health! Welcome aboard, this is what it is about.

Dean Metz September 21, 2012 6:32 PM

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