Exercise Is Medicine

As a chiropractor part of what I do is to listen to patients describing to me how they have injured themselves. What is very interesting is that in many cases patients have no idea how they may have injured themselves. In fact, more often than not there doesn’t seem to be a clear precipitating reason and often patients are left thinking that their symptoms literally arose right out of the blue.

More accurately though, these symptoms did not arise out of the blue because they may not be directly related to something that the patient did but are more related to things that they are not doing. In other words many of the problems that I see are not directly related to how someone has overused/misused their body but more accurately are related to how they have underused their bodies. Yes, you are correct, this is a back handed way of saying a lack of exercise and activity.

Most people recognize that lack of activity and a sedentary lifestyle lead to health issues like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer but less understood by the general public is that it also leads to musculoskeletal problems such as back and neck pain. The general premise is simple, if you don’t use it, you lose it.  Back in 2011 the Globe and Mail published an article discussing new guidelines that were developed by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. In this article Dr. Mark Tremblay states that “most Canadians are acutely aware there is an activity crisis, but there is a huge disconnect between perception and reality when it comes to our own behaviours. Most people think that they’re not one of those people or that their kids aren’t those kids.”

To help Canadians with their perception the Society developed “The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines and Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines.” The guidelines can be found at www.csep.ca/guidelines. The guidelines are divided into one section that deals with the minimum amount and types of activities that should be done while the other section deals with recommendations with regard to limiting sedentary activities. Each guideline is divided into categories based on age. For example the activity guideline for adults (18-64 years) recommends an accumulation of at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. It also recommends including strength training at least 2 days a week.

Dr. Tremblay goes on in the article to explain that it is important that we think of sedentary behaviour and physical activity as two different things. The reason for this is that limiting sedentary behaviour may be just as important as increasing physical activity. It seems that even if someone is very active and fit that this might not be able to actually counteract all the negative affects of sedentary activity.  For example, even if a person regularly engages in vigorous physical activity this may not be enough to counteract all of the negative affects of a job that requires them to sit at a desk for long hours.

These guidelines were developed to give people a tool to measure their personal amount of activity and sedentary behaviours and help them to honestly evaluate if they need to make a change in their lifestyle or their children’s lifestyle habits. I encourage you to look them up on line and honestly compare your lifestyle habits and those of your children and decide if you need to make some changes. The evidence is clear that if we make efforts to increase activity as well as decrease sedentary behaviour we will see significant improvements in obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases as well as improvements in musculoskeletal health.