Exercise Is Often the Best Medicine

A new study reported by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) supports numerous previous studies about the benefits of exercise for nearly every illness.

The study, released this month, looked at 128 patients with stage 1 or 2 Parkinson’s Disease who had been diagnosed within the previous five years. A third of the participants were prescribed high-intensity exercise, defined as exercise that increases the heart rate to between 80% and 85% of maximum heart rate.

Researchers found that not only was such exercise safe for the patients, but also that those subjects fared significantly better in slowing progression of the disease than did the other groups, who engaged in either moderate or little exercise.

In this case, the research focused on exercise for Parkinson’s Disease, but other studies have found remarkable benefits of exercise in numerous diseases and conditions. For example, a study published in the journal BMJ compared exercise alone versus drug therapy alone and found that for heart disease, diabetes control or prevention, stroke rehabilitation and treatment of heart failure, regular physical exercise was just as effective as prescription medications in treating many of these conditions.

Another study out of Denmark found that resistance training is not only safe for patients with multiple sclerosis, but it also helps minimize progression of the disease.

According to the Mayo Clinic, some examples of the types of disorders that can be alleviated by exercise include:

  • Heart disease – In addition to strengthening the heart muscle and lowering blood pressure, exercise can help you be more active without experiencing chest pain or other symptoms.
  • Diabetes – Regular exercise can not only help insulin more effectively lower your blood sugar level, but help control weight and boost energy.
  • Asthma – Exercise has been shown to control the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.
  • Back pain – Regular low-impact aerobic exercise can help increase the strength of your back muscles and improve endurance and muscle function.
  • Arthritis – Exercise is the primary approach to reduce pain, help maintain muscle strength in affected joints and reduce joint stiffness.

A New York Times article detailed additional conditions that have been shown to benefit from exercise: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), intermittent claudication (leg cramps while walking), depression, osteoarthritis, dementia, gallstones, diverticulitis, peripheral vascular disease, and 12 kinds of cancer. In those who have had transient ischemic attacks, or mini-strokes, exercise has been shown to improve blood flow to the brain and diminish the risk of a full-blown stroke.

“The single thing that comes close to a magic bullet, in terms of its strong and universal benefits, is exercise,” Frank Hu, epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in the Harvard Magazine.

Your highly trained, licensed physical therapists in Jupiter, at The Medical Group of South Florida, consider therapeutic exercise to be a primary resource for treating the various conditions affecting our patients.

While it’s perfectly natural to avoid any movement that might increase the pain one is experiencing, often this resistance to exercise will exacerbate most conditions. It’s vital to incorporate careful movement and exercise into daily life to avoid stiffening of joints and muscle atrophy, and especially following injury or the onset of chronic disease. The key is in knowing what types of movement and/or exercise will benefit the patient, and what types of exercise the person should avoid. That’s what we’re expert at.

We carefully evaluate your condition, and take preliminary steps to alleviate pain and inflammation with various physical modalities such as massage, heat and/or cold therapy, hydrotherapy, or ultrasound. These steps are intended to provide immediate pain relief, thus preparing you for gradual introduction to exercise and more rigorous activity, the ultimate key to recovery.

Our one-and-only goal as physical therapists is to restore to the greatest extent possible the functional mobility of our patients. When you come to us for pain relief and restored mobility, you can be sure we’ll develop and help you execute the ideal exercise and rehabilitation plan tailored specifically to your needs.

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