Americans are dying younger. Numerous studies from associations like the Institute of Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention all indicate that in the next decades people will die younger than their parents’ generation due to poor diet and minimal activity level. Exercise Is Medicine is a national initiative that started in 2007 where fitness professionals hope to partner with physicians and prescribe exercise to patients just as they would medications.
Salt Lake Community College Fitness Instructor Nate Thomas believes that one way Americans can head off catastrophe is by treating exercise as a literal prescription to avoid disease before it happens. The Fitness Technician Program at SLCC takes this crisis seriously and has built part of its program around the Exercise Is Medicine initiative creating a new breed of fitness professionals.
“The Fitness Technician Program essentially trains people to be fitness professionals,” said Thomas. “We’re kind of splitting it up where we’re training fitness professionals to be able to work within the scope of being able to work with a physician and additional exercise physiologists. It’s essentially completely different than the traditional trainer concept.”
According to Exerciseismedicine.org, prescribing exercise can result in the prevention or treatment of over forty diseases.
“So if you think about [prevention],” said Thomas, “if we had a medicine that could prevent forty diseases or essentially improve your ability to live your life, I mean who wouldn’t want to take that pill?”
Chronic health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, COPD and hypertension can all stem from obesity. A full one-third of Americans ages 12 to 19 are now considered to be obese which cost $147 billion in health care costs in 2008 alone according to the CDC.
It is the intension of Exercise Is Medicine to reduce the frequency of those diseases and the cost while boosting people’s quality of life and years simply by having health-care providers ask after the patient’s activity level at every visit and recommend activities for them to do.
“We see a false interpretation of what’s real. The supplement industry is really big on making sure you see what’s not real,” Thomas said, believing that misinformation is the biggest obstacle for the initiative. “That’s hopefully what this whole exercise initiative is [trying to change]. If there’s a physician helping to provide information that comes from real science then we’ll have a greater likelihood of success for lifestyle intervention. Then, hopefully, we can increase the quality of life.”
Exercise Is Medicine is gaining steam with global partners like the United Health Foundation, The Coca-Cola Company and Anytime Fitness. They also provide several resources on their website, including downloadable guides, a video series and other information from alcohol consumption to youth strength-training for anyone that wants to begin a lifestyle change.