When Doctors Prescribe Exercise Written orders can motivate patients.
by Dr. Ranit Mishori, PARADE I’ve noticed that my patients make a clear distinction between doctor’s orders and doctor’s advice. Orders, they follow. “Take these pills three times daily,” for example. Advice—like “you should really get more exercise”—they often ignore. But what if I actually wrote out a prescription detailing the “dosage” for exercise—just as I do for a medication or a referral to a specialist? Might that give my recommendation the persuasive power of a “doctor’s order”? Several recent studies suggest it may work. PARADE: 4 diseases you can fight with fitness In Spain, half the patients in a group of 4,000 were given general advice to exercise, while the other half got actual prescriptions to do so. Six months later, according to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the patients who received the prescriptions were more physically active than those who hadn’t. In another study, in New Zealand, inactive women who were given written prescriptions for exercise “were significantly more likely to get in 150 minutes of exercise a week and maintain that over two years,” according to the British Medical Journal. A study of 6000 patients in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports showed similar results. PARADE: Fitness tips for every age “The power of the pad” is what Dr. Pam Peeke calls it. “That piece of paper symbolizes that physical activity is no longer a casual side story but is serious business in a person’s life,” says Dr. Peeke, spokesperson for the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) “Exercise Is Medicine” campaign. I like this idea because exercise really is a form of treatment—in fact, probably the most important lifestyle treatment available. The reason we doctors repeat our get-off-the-couch mantra so relentlessly is that we know the research. Exercise has been shown to prevent and even improve certain conditions, sometimes better than pills. Regular physical activity also helps prevent falls and aids cognition as well as mental-health conditions such as depression and anxiety. PARADE: Building a fitness plan that lasts Meanwhile, “a sedentary lifestyle is now considered a major risk factor for disease,” Dr. Peeke says. Among the conditions affected by lack of exercise are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and osteoporosis. So, even if it’s only in the form of “advice,” heed what your doctor has to say about exercise. And as a starting point to writing your own prescription, consider the ACSM’s guidelines of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobics, plus strengthening exercises that involve all the major muscle groups performed at least twice a week.
Courtesy of PARADE