The “Wonder Drug” Called Exercise

written by DesiRae Dinius, PA-C
Physician Assistant-Certified at Monument Health Medical Clinic in Hot Springs

As parents, we constantly worry about our children’s health, as well as our own. This can seem never-ending, and frequently we get conflicting advice on how to stay healthy. Medical researchers spend millions of dollars and countless hours on new treatments for conditions such as obesity, depression, anxiety, diabetes, hypertension, and even cancer. 

Ironically, as we wait for new treatments there is an extremely underused, inexpensive treatment with minimal side effects that is readily available to all of us. I am talking about exercise. 

Exercise is crucial to a well-functioning, healthy body. Exercise differs from an active lifestyle. While walking, standing, or lifting heavy things at work can be good for you as well, it should not be considered a substitute for exercise. The intensity of your daily exercise will vary based on your individual health and conditioning.

Regular cardiovascular and weight training exercise at moderate to high intensity (based on your physical capability) 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week will improve your overall health. The benefits of exercise are numerous; below is a short list of possible benefits:

  • Improved heart health
  • Improved lung function, even in people who have asthma
  • Increase in HDL (“good” cholesterol) and decrease in LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides
  • Weight loss
  • Less joint pain and stiffness in arthritis
  • Less chronic pain and fewer flares in fibromyalgia
  • Better bone density & prevention of osteoporosis
  • Boosting of the body’s natural immune system, decreased frequency of cold/flu
  • Better quality of life in cancer patients and less chance of dying from colorectal, breast and prostate cancers
  • Better mental cognition
  • Less risk of dementia
  • More energy
  • Better sleep; less insomnia
  • Mood improvement: Recent studies now show that regular exercise can be more effective in treating depression and anxiety than any drug currently on the market.

 Many of us can come up with a million excuses as to why we can’t exercise on a regular basis, lack of time being the most common. Typically, this is actually a lack of time management. Almost every single person can find the time. Do you watch television? Use your phone for games or social media? Step back and analyze your daily routine and schedule a regular appointment on your calendar to exercise. 

Exercise regimens should be based on your own capabilities and fitness level. You do not need new attire or a gym membership. It can be as simple as a walk outdoors or around your local mall. Excuses are numerous, but ultimately each one of us needs to take responsibility and make our own mental and physical health a priority.

Exercise will not cure all disease. However; it will cure some, treat many, and improve your overall health so your body can properly heal itself. If you have not been exercising on a regular basis, start slowly and build your way up. I recommend consulting with your medical provider for any guidance on any specific concerns you may have. 

High intensity workout

At this level, speaking more than a few words would be a struggle. Exercising at a high intensity could include circuit training, running and vigorous weight training — basically physical activity with more exertional effort. 

Moderate intensity exercise 

At moderate intensity, most people can carry on a conversation but would be unable to sing more than a few words without difficulty. Examples would be jogging, higher intensity yoga, weight lifting, cycling, or swimming. This is what the average person thinks of when they think of a “workout.” 

Mild intensity exercise

At this intensity, most people can carry on a conversation without difficulty. Examples include walking or using a cross-trainer/elliptical machine or bike at a leisurely pace, beginner yoga or stretching. While mild intensity exercise is not as beneficial in weight loss, it will still have some improvement on cardiovascular and mental health. This benefit may increase if performed outdoors.