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Is Exercise really Medicine? The Power of Guided Dosage

As a passionate physiotherapist, I've always believed in the mantra that "exercise is medicine." It's a message I consistently impart to my patients because I've witnessed firsthand the transformative effects of movement on their well-being. In this blog, I want to delve into the importance of moving well and moving often, emphasizing that even when it's not perfect, any movement is better than no movement at all. I'll discuss how, much like medication, exercise is always the right thing, but what truly matters is finding the right dosage.

Eli da Silva, Physiotherapist, guides exercises to optimize and rehabilitate injury

Is Exercise Really Medicine?

Regular physical activity has been proven to have numerous health benefits and can play a vital role in preventing and managing various chronic diseases. Here's how exercise acts as medicine:

  1. Prevention of Chronic Diseases: Regular exercise can significantly reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. It helps maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels.
  2. Management of Existing Health Conditions: For individuals already living with chronic conditions, exercise can help alleviate pain, increase mobility, and boost energy levels, making it an essential part of managing diseases like arthritis or diabetes.
  3. Mental Health Benefits: Exercise has proven benefits for mental health as well. It can reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Physical activity stimulates the production of endorphins, the body's natural mood lifters, which can contribute to an improved sense of well-being.
  4. Weight Management: Regular physical activity is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight. It helps in burning calories, building muscle mass, and increasing metabolism, all of which are vital for weight management and obesity prevention.
  5. Improved Cardiovascular Health: Exercise strengthens the heart and improves circulation. It enhances the efficiency of the cardiovascular system, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  6. Enhanced Immune System: Regular moderate exercise can give your immune system a boost. It promotes healthy circulation, which allows immune cells to move freely and do their job efficiently.
  7. Better Sleep: Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep. Quality sleep is essential for overall health and well-being.
  8. Longevity: Studies consistently show a strong connection between regular physical activity and increased lifespan. Those who engage in regular exercise tend to live longer, healthier lives.

In essence, exercise operates on the principles of medicine. It has specific and direct effects on the body, influencing physiological functions and promoting overall health. However, it's important to note that just like medicine, the effectiveness of exercise depends on the right dose - the right type, duration, and intensity of physical activity tailored to an individual's health condition and fitness level. Therefore, under the right circumstances and when prescribed correctly, exercise can indeed be considered a powerful and natural form of medicine.

The Importance of Moving Well:

When it comes to exercise, quality matters as much as quantity. Proper form and technique are the foundation of effective movement. As a physiotherapist, I always start by educating my patients on the importance of moving well. This involves teaching them the correct way to perform exercises to prevent injuries and maximize benefits. Moving well ensures that each movement serves its purpose in promoting healing and overall health.

Eli da Silva, Physiotherapist, preforms a squat as part of his healthy exercises

The Not-So-Perfect Way:

However, the path to recovery and fitness is rarely linear or without setbacks. There are times when moving in what might seem like the "not-so-right way" becomes necessary. This is where supervised, guided, sensible, and gradual adjustments come into play. Sometimes, pushing the boundaries of what's considered perfect form is essential to build resilience and boost confidence in the journey toward improved function.

Building Resilience:

One of the key aspects of rehabilitation and exercise is building resilience. The human body is remarkably adaptable, and challenging it safely is an integral part of the recovery process. By introducing controlled variations that might deviate from textbook-perfect form, we can stimulate the body's capacity to adapt and strengthen. These variations should always be introduced under professional guidance to minimize the risk of injury.

Promoting Confidence:

Confidence plays a significant role in the rehabilitation process. When my patients see that they can perform exercises, even if they deviate slightly from perfection, it boosts their self-esteem. It reassures them that they are capable of regaining their function and achieving their fitness goals. Confidence is a powerful motivator that keeps patients committed to their exercise routines.

Finding the Right Dosage:

Just like medication, the key to effective exercise is finding the right dosage. What works for one person may not work for another, and this is where personalized guidance from a physiotherapist becomes crucial. The dosage of exercise should be tailored to an individual's specific needs, goals, and abilities. It may need to be adjusted over time as progress is made.

In conclusion, the philosophy that "exercise is medicine" is a powerful one, and I am a firm believer in its efficacy. The importance of moving well and moving often cannot be overstated. While proper form is the foundation, there are moments when deviations from perfection, when done sensibly and under supervision, can be valuable for building resilience and confidence.

Remember that, just like with medication, finding the right dosage of exercise is key to achieving the best results. As a physiotherapist, my goal is to guide my patients on this journey, ensuring they move in ways that promote healing, improve function, and ultimately lead to a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Eli da Silva, Physiotherapist at Momentum Health SetonWritten by Eli da Silva, Physiotherapist, Clinic Director, PT, BScPT, CMT, Dry Needling, FRM - Affiliated Clinical Educator

Eli is a Brazilian trained physio and has been practicing physio in Calgary for many years. Eli got his bachelor in physiotherapy from the Escola Bahiana de Medicina e Saúde Pública (Bahian School of Medicine and Public Health), Salvador, Brazil in 2005. He has taken Kinetacore Functional dry needling level 1 and is a certified manipulative therapist through Swodeam Institute. He is also trained in Global Postural Reeducation (GPR) in Brazil, where he held a private practice before moving with his family to Canada.(GPR) is a specific physiotherapy approach based on the Mézières method and further developed by French physiotherapist Philippe E. Souchard. This French founded system focuses on correcting body mechanics and muscle imbalances via releasing and unwinding muscle chains in the body.
Eli is very enthusiastic about functional rehabilitation, educating his clients and walking with them as he empowers and enables them to get back to their health and enjoy life to their fullest. He has over 8 years of martial arts experience and currently trains in HapKiDo. He likes to play soccer and volleyball. In his spare time Eli loves to barbecue (Brazilian style) for his friends and family, and spend time with his lovely wife and 3 boys.

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University of British Columbia: "Physical activity is medicine: Prescribe it"

Cleveland Clinic: "Is Exercise Really Medicine?"

PubMed: "Is Exercise Really Medicine? An Evolutionary Perspective"

World Health organization: "Physical activity"