Can exercise be a drug? According to theWorld Health Organization (WHO) there is no doubt: “The lack of physical exercise is to be counted among one of the leading causes of mortality and is linked to a higher probability of cardiovascular pathologies, diabetes, tumors. In addition, it performs a function of prevention and treatment against various other diseases “. And then, there are the recent results of a research from the University of Sydney (Australia). A group of researchers, to ascertain the amount of physical exercise necessary to reduce the risk of mortality linked to cardiovascular, respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancer, it has followed 149,000 Australian men and women (aged 45 and over) for nine years. The sample was divided into 4 groups, starting from the activity carried out in one week: “inactive” (no physical activity); “Insufficiently active” (up to 149 minutes); “Sufficiently active” (from 150 to 419) and “highly active” (over 420).
The results were published in Journal of American College of Cardiology: sit for more than 6 hours a day has been associated with a increased risk of death. However, this effect was seen among people who did not achieve 150-300 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week, equivalent to about 20-40 minutes per day on average. The considerations? According to Emmanuel Stamatakis, head of the team, “Respecting only the lower limit has eliminated the association with the risk of mortality from all causes related to sitting. However, reducing only the number of hours seated is not sufficient to lower this risk, if we do not also engage in greater physical activity, which also has an important protective action against other pathologies “. It’s still. Since 2007, theAmerican College of Sports Medecinand is active with its Exercise is Medicine program, with which it encourages doctors to include sport as a therapy to offer to their patients.
In which pathologies it works – At this point we see in that chronic pathologies exercise has proven itself effective.
Depression. In all depressive states, sport intervenes by releasing the so-called “happiness hormones”, endorphins and acetylcholine, into physical effort. Specifically, the Veronesi Foundation recalls, the most suitable activities to combat depression are certainly aerobic ones, such as running and cycling. For older subjects, a brisk walk of a few tens of minutes, or dancing, can be effective. Group or team sports, such as volleyball or basketball, are also very effective. The practice of martial arts such as aikido or judo also provides excellent results, in which mutual respect in contact and the search for concentration have strong educational purposes.
Diabetes. Exercise is imperative for diabetics (whether type 1 or 2): it allows you to reduce fat mass, lower blood sugar and control blood fats. Aerobic sports such as swimming, walking, gymnastics, jogging, cycling, cross-country skiing, canoeing and dancing are indicated. These activities, practiced gradually, especially in the presence of severely overweight subjects, allow you to train the heart without tiring it. Activities to be prohibited? Combat sports, weight lifting, diving, pure anaerobic sports, long-lasting aerobic sports at a competitive level, and all those activities in which hypoglycemia can endanger the life of the subject.
Hypertension. Those who practice physical exercise have a much lower risk of seeing their blood pressure indexes rise, compared to those who lead a sedentary lifestyle. In this case, aerobic sports such as cycling, jogging, swimming are indicated. On the other hand, anaerobic sports and weight lifting are not recommended.
Osteoporosis. Dancing, doing aerobics, climbing stairs or brisk walking are useful activities for strengthening the bone, but not only. If you walk, the cadence of the step is fundamental; it doesn’t have to be a walk, but a brisk walk. And to make it functional to the maximum, you should also swing your arms, so that the trunk and upper limbs are subjected to the right amount of exercise.
British and French projects: less work for doctors – Also abroad there are two experiences in the area of physical exercise prescription. In UK GPs can prescribe physical activity as a drug to their patients: it ranges from exercise itself, to boxing, Bollywood dancing, gardening, mindfulness sessions and choir rehearsal. All this on the basis of a project partially funded with nearly 80,000 pounds by the National Health Service, the UK health system. Concerned doctors show no small satisfaction because their workload is decreasing. Before the launch of the project, in fact, not a few patients went to their offices to complain even of problems that did not require their intervention. In other words, issues that doctors could not address: above all loneliness, housing problems or difficulties in accessing welfare. Another medical fact in the strict sense is more than interesting. 18 months after the launch of the project, July 2018, a ra 20% reduction in hospital stays and a 4% reduction in emergency hospital admissions, according to reports from the Parchmore Medical Center in Thornton Heath – project leader.
In France the “verb” of prescribing physical activity to those with chronic diseases is gaining ground. Prescription that is equivalent to a real drug. The target? Avoid re-hospitalizations, treating patients with physical exercise. Therefore, medical prescriptions are elaborated with different physical exercises for different pathologies. The novelty is the prescription of a minimum “dose” of exercise, essential, the same for everyone: no less than three times a week to achieve the goal. All this was elaborated by the French experts of the National Research Institute. They have developed different advice for different issues. For example, with the obese, the goal is to reduce the waistline through a resistance exercise program. For heart failure it is recommended that you stick to 30 minutes of moderate activity, five times a week.
Article by Massimo Ilari
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