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Topics > Healthy Outlook > Exercise Can be Prescription for Combating Illness

Exercise Can be Prescription for Combating Illness

Published by Contra Costa Times
Posted on Sun, Jun. 26, 2004
By Dr. Craig Desoer

MANY PEOPLE THINK that exercise is something the healthy do to stay healthy. That's true, but it can also help those with serious illness get well. In fact, a patient of mine with several chronic diseases became so healthy from exercising she was able to stop taking five different medications.

Susan (not her real name) suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity. Before exercising, she took three medications to control her high blood pressure and two for her diabetes. After, she didn't need to take any.

At first, Susan was so out of shape she didn't know where or how to start. After some discussion, we worked out an exercise schedule for her that had her starting slowly, walking just 10 minutes a day for the first few weeks, then gradually increasing a mix of walking, jogging and bicycling for around one hour a day. Her schedule didn't allow her the time to play sports, but that would have worked just as well.

The impact on Susan's health was impressive. In a little more than a year, she lost over 20 pounds, normalized her blood pressure, and controlled her diabetes without medication. And, her cholesterol levels improved significantly. As important, she became more optimistic and energetic.

At any point along the way, Susan could have made excuses for not exercising: not enough time, too busy, too much work, an injury, too expensive, too hot, too cold, too wet, too crowded, too late, and so forth.

Most people spend many hours each day watching TV, surfing the Web, or playing video games. Few cannot spend at least 30 to 60 minutes a day doing some form of continuous physical activity - even if it's just walking or riding a bicycle.

The types of physical activity that get people off medications tend to be continuous exercises, such as walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming or even soccer. None of these activities requires expensive equipment or gym fees. If you go to a gym, use machines that offer a continuous workout.

Try Dr. Desoer's 4 Ds:
  • Do it. That is, do at least 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day. Even a walk in the mall is exercise, as long as you don't stop at the cinnamon-roll store.
  • Don't overdo it. That is, start slowly and increase gradually. Overdoing it can cause an injury, which can set you back for weeks. The goal is to become fitter and healthier over a lifetime, not the first day or week.
  • Don't stop. That is, don't let minor chores, obligations or inconveniences keep you from exercising daily.
  • Don't hate it. That is, try to make it enjoyable. Exercise with a friend. Listen to music or the radio. Watch TV or read if you use a stationary bicycle or treadmill. Play a sport such as soccer, basketball or tennis if that's what you enjoy. And, you don't always have to exercise for an hour or at your maximum intensity. Slow down and shorten your workout if you feel unusually sluggish.

Exercise can do more than just make you feel better. In some cases, it can also cure illness. Consult your physician right away so you can get started.

Dr. Desoer practices family medicine at the Pittsburg Health Center. Healthy Outlook is written by the professional staff of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department. Send questions to series coordinator Dr. David Pepper at theairdoctor@gmail.com. For more health information, go to www.cchealth.org.


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