Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Time for a New Year's Resolution

Since it is the holiday season, I would like to take a second and wish all my readers a healthy and happy holiday season and new year! Since many of us make new year’s resolutions, let me help you make one—to exercise.

One of the biggest frustrations that I have is trying to convince my patients to participate in some form of daily or semi-daily exercise. Exercise does not have to mean going to a gym and taking a class. Exercise can be as simple as walking for twenty to thirty minutes per day.

What can exercise do for you? Let me rephrase the question; what can’t exercise do for you?

Literally any illness can be helped with exercise. Diseases improved or prevented from exercise are numerous and include heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, depression, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

In the case of hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease, there are literally hundreds of studies showing that exercise can improve these illnesses. There is no question that exercise helps prevent and treat obesity and diabetes. In fact, it is nearly impossible for an overweight person to lose weight without some form of exercise.

One in ten Americans are presently being treated for depression with an antidepressant medication. These numbers are unacceptable. There are many studies showing exercise outperforms the commonly prescribed antidepressants. Exercise certainly costs a lot less and has less adverse effects as compared to the antidepressant medications.

In the case of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, studies have also shown the benefit of exercise. I know patients with these illnesses are very fatigued and don’t want to exercise. However, I can assure you, a mild exercise program will improve these illnesses. Patients can start with a short walk (five minutes or so) and increase the length of time by one minute per day.

What prompted this article? A study from my alma-mater, The University of Michigan (playing in the Sugar Bowl January 3, 2012—GO BLUE!) found that patients with melanoma who had decreased core muscle density were more likely to see their cancer spread to distant parts of their body. In fact, the researchers reported that every 10 units of decreased muscle density was correlated with a 28% increase of recurrence of melanoma. (UofMhealth.org/news/cancer-mlanoma-0830). Furthermore, the scientists reported that frailer patients had more complications from surgery. Finally, the researchers said, “These new results distinguish that it’s the underlying vitality of the patient, not age that really matters.”

What can you do? First, do not let your body become frail. Exercise daily with a program that you like—walking, cycling, aerobics, or whatever activity you like doing is fine. Twenty to thirty minutes every day or every other day is a reasonable goal.

Finally, eat good food and keep your body hydrated. I call this “doing the basics”. Treating your body right can pay off in many ways, particularly when you are hit with a serious illness.


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