Exercise Prescription for Optimal Health Benefits

Introduction

Physical inactivity is now identified as the fourth leading risk factor for death globally, accounting for about 6% of the total deaths worldwide. Physical inactivity levels are rising globally, spanning all economic, educational and age strata. This has major implications for the general health of the people worldwide and for the prevalence of lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (coronary heart disease and stroke), diabetes and cancer, and their risk factors such as raised blood pressure, raised blood sugar and overweight. Physical inactivity, i.e. lack of exercise, is estimated as the principal cause for approximately 21-25% of breast and colon cancer burden, 27% of diabetes and approximately 30% of coronary artery diseases (which can ultimately lead to heart attack). As per WHO, of the 56.9 million deaths globally in 2016, 40.5 million or 71% were due to lifestyle diseases. You can read about the total burden of these diseases in my post Chronic Diseases: the Silent Killers.

The image depicts a doctor advising a patient to exercise regularly.

Global health is being influenced by three trends: globalisation, urbanisation, and population ageing.

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Health Benefits of Exercise: a grossly underutilised therapy

Introduction

Exercise is being increasingly recognised to play an important role not only in the prevention but treatment as well of multiple lifestyle diseases (chronic diseases), health conditions and risk factors associated with these. In view of the above, exercise is now aptly being recognised as medicine. It is the cornerstone of lifestyle modification to achieve Holistic Health. However, like any other medicine, exercise too has some associated risks, though benefits of exercise on health, far outweigh the risks. However, before proceeding with the benefits and risks associated with exercise, it would be pertinent to understand some important related terms. Even though physical activity and exercise are often used interchangeably, they are not synonymous. The definition of these and some closely related terms are given below:

People of different age, gender and categories participating in different physical activities.
People of different age, gender and categories participating in different physical activities.
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