While we all know that exercise and a healthy diet are the two most important factors to fend off most diseases, premature aging and cognitive decline, most American physicians apparently lack the knowledge to advise their patients on these basics.
A new study (1) conducted at Oregon State University (OSU) found that more than half of physicians in the U.S. didn’t receive any training on how to incorporate exercise in their treatments.
“There are immense medical benefits to exercise; it can help as much as medicine to address some health concerns,” Brad Cardinal, an OSU professor of sports science, said in the study’s press release.(2) “Because exercise has medicinal as well as other benefits, I was surprised that medical schools didn’t spend more time on it.”
Cardinal and his team reviewed the curriculum of 118 medical schools to see whether they incorporate any type of physical activity education in their training program.
They found that the majority of all medical training institutions don’t offer any type of physical training, and if they do, the courses are often not mandatory. To put it in numbers: 51% of the reviewed schools didn’t offer exercise-related classes; 21% had only one class; and out of the schools that offered physical training, only 18% made these classes mandatory.
Many patients see their physician as the go-to person for counsel and support about their health, but according to this study over half of our physicians received no or very little education in the area of physical activity.
Over the years, our medical system has focused and relied too much on treating symptoms with pharmaceuticals while neglecting simple natural remedies like exercise and healthy, whole foods, which tackle the actual cause of the problem.
“Physicians play a significant and influential role in encouraging and assisting patients who need or are trying to get more exercise, but past research has shown that many physicians lack the education, skills or confidence to educate and counsel patients about their physical activity,” Cardinal said.
“Understanding why and how to exercise, and knowing how to help people who are struggling to make it a habit, is really important,” he added.(2)
With initiatives like “Exercise is Medicine” from the American College of Sports Medicine and “Healthy People 2020” from the U.S. government, we are definitely heading into the right direction to educate physicians about the importance of prescribing exercise rather than medicines. But it is up to the physicians to take the responsibility to seek out more education if needed.
How exercise improves our well-being
Staying active throughout your life is one of the best ways to control weight and improve overall well-being and longevity. Together with nutrition, regular exercise will keep your cells, bones and muscles in perfect condition. It can reduce the risk of heart diseases,(3)osteoporosis(4) and several types of cancer.(5) Combined with vitamin D, it has shown great results in reducing abdominal fat and reversing insulin-resistance in type 2 diabetics.(6)
And not only will the body benefit; several studies have found that regular exercise improves our mood, makes us happy and helps ease symptoms of depression as well.(7)
Even the slightest form of activity can have a major effect on health and happiness. Not everybody loves going to the gym or has it in them to train for a triathlon, but that’s absolutely fine. If you are not the biggest sportsman or -woman out there, mild exercises, like walking, cycling, yoga, dancing, swimming or jogging, will do the trick, as long as you do them on a regular basis.