The benefits of physical activity & exercise as medicine

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I once worked in a cardiac rehab program at a hospital. One day a man whom I had treated for a couple months came up to me and thanked me for everything I had done and said something I will never forget. In short what he said was “My daughter is getting married in a month and I will be walking her down the aisle, something that would not have been possible two months ago”. Have you ever heard the saying “exercise is medicine”? Contrary to what you’re probably thinking, I did not work as a nurse or other medical volunteer, but rather as a kinesiologist prescribing him exercises specific to the capabilities of his heart following surgery. Every week he got stronger and was capable of more, and through a simple exercise program his quality of life was drastically improved.

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It is widely known that exercise is good for the body but what you may not have known is that it also benefits our mind and mood, and recent research also indicates that it helps us retain information. It can improve our day-to-day lives and improve our overall sense of well-being by energizing our mood, helping relieve stress and anxiety, improving our quality of sleep, and helping us manage symptoms of illness and pain.

Besides the positive day-to-day effects exercise has, physical activity has also been shown to be effective in preventing and managing many health ailments. Regular physical activity has proven to reduce coronary heart disease, type II diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer. It is important to speak to a professional, be that a doctor, kinesiologist or physiotherapist for example, to ascertain exactly what your body can handle when using exercise to manage health ailments. Remember, exercise not only makes us feel great, but it is important for maintaining muscle strength, bone strength, aerobic endurance, flexibility and balance, and even cognitive function. These are all factors that lead to greater independence later in life.

To achieve the many health benefits exercise can offer, the Canadian Society of Exercise of Physiology (CSEP) recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate-vigorous intensity exercise in bouts of 10 minutes or more. CSEP also recommends adding muscle and bone strengthening exercises using major muscle groups at least two days per week. As of 2016, it is recommended that children between the ages of 5-17 accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day as well as incorporating vigorous physical activities and bone strengthening activities at least three days a week.

Reaping the rewards of exercise does not require strenuous workouts or trips to the gym. All you need to do is add movement and activity into your life, even in small ways, and get that heart rate elevated!


Candice Hawksworth

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