Exercise on doctors orders!

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Researchers in New Zealand say though exercise is known to be one of the essential components which improve and enhance the quality of life, it is unfortunately underused.

A new study by researchers from the University of Otago says physical exercise is a valuable tool for effectively improving the quality of life with regard to functional ability and also generates feelings of wellbeing, but is under-employed. According to the researchers deaths from heart disease, lung problems and cancer are reduced by almost 30% if exercise is part of a person’s daily regimen.

Dr. Beverly A. Lawton and colleagues examined 1,089 less active women over a two year period who were placed on an ‘exercise on prescription’ program called ‘the green prescription’. The women age 40 to 74 years were recruited from 17 primary care practices and then randomly placed in intervention and control groups.

The intervention program group had the benefits of counselling, medical monitoring and telephone support for motivation over a nine month period with a gradual increase in the intensity and duration of the fitness plan - their weight, blood pressure and physical fitness were also regularly checked.

Initially the researchers found that only 10% of the intervention group participants and 11% of the control group participants were meeting the goal of 150 minutes of weekly exercise.

Over a period of two years, both groups increased their physical activity but the intervention group demonstrated a significant edge over the control group - the work-out plans for both groups increased to 39.3% and 32.8% respectively but the intervention group demonstrated considerable improvement in both mental and physical health.

The researchers found that women who were part of an activity prescription program were significantly more likely to get in 150 hours of exercise a week and maintain that over two years than women who didn’t participate in a program

However blood pressure, weight and cholesterol level revealed no drastic changes and unexpectedly, more injuries and falls were found in the intervention group.

The researchers say programs of exercise on prescription can produce sustained increases in physical activity among less active middle-age and older women over two years and increases in physical activity amongst the general population could have important public health benefits.

The researchers say rather than prescribing exercise to prevent diseases, health care providers should emphasize physical activity as a means to enhance the quality of life, which in the long term, might ultimately help prevent disease.

Dr. Lawton says as most patients trust their doctor, exercise on prescription may well be the way to move population exercise trends in a positive direction.

The research is published in the British Medical Journal.


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