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Exercise Is Medicine and So Much More!

Natalie Stein
March 16, 2020
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Are you looking for a simple medication to manage blood sugar and prediabetes? There may be something better. Lark Diabetes Prevention Program is all about lifestyle changes to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes if you are at high risk, and increasing physical activity is one of the most important changes you can make. 

Getting active lowers diabetes risk more than taking blood sugar medications. Since it is so effective for that and so many other health conditions, many experts agree with the “exercise is medicine” movement. Here is why exercise is like medicine, and why it is so much more.

Right Type


If you are going to take medications, they need to be the right ones! Painkillers, antidepressants, immuno-suppresants, anti-hypertensive medications, and blood sugar-lowering medications all have their own purposes. 

Exercise also need to be the proper type for the purpose. For example, swimming is not weight-bearing and will not help bone strength as much as lifting weights might. Still, it tends to be more generalized. In most cases, most types of physical activity will help with most conditions. For example, moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity activities of all types (brisk walking and gardening, for example) and resistance training can all improve or lower the risk for the above-mentioned conditions.

Right Delivery


In addition to having the right formulation, the delivery must be proper; there is a reason why medications may be injectable, oral pills, or liquid, for example. Exercise must also be “delivered” properly. Someone with aching joints from arthritis may feel pain with dancing but not with cycling, for example, while someone with no access to a gym may be better off with a walking program than a program that includes group fitness classes. 

Medications may not always come with a choice, but you may have the luxury of letting personal preference play a role in your choice of exercise. Hiking for someone who loves the outdoors, the elliptical trainer for someone who wants to watch television in a consistent indoors environment each day, and playing tennis for someone who needs an exercise buddy can all be equally effective for improving health.

Dose and Timing


Any medication needs to be taken in the proper dosage and at the right times to be effective.  Amount and frequency matter with exercise, too. Lark DPP encourages a goal of at least 150 minutes per week of physical activity because that amount has been shown to be effective in lowering risk for type 2 diabetes and for other health goals, too. Regarding frequency, daily activity is a good goal since many of the effects of exercise last up to 24 hours.

Unlike with drug medications, more is (usually) better when it comes to exercise. Aside from injury risk, there is no risk of dangerous exercise overdoses. Another benefit is that you can “take” your exercise however you like: in 5 to 30-minute (or more) sessions, 1 or more times a day, at times that suit you. 

Side Effects and Risks


What are the side effects of prescription drugs? It depends on which medication(s) you are on, but common side effects include upset stomach, nausea, constipation or diarrhea, weight gain, headaches, confusion, and drowsiness or insomnia. Other risks can include liver trouble, weak or aching muscles, and interactions with other medications.

Exercise should be done safely, to be sure, but it has almost none of these risks. Most often, side effects of activity include better sleep, improved mood, and improved clarity. Other side effects may include increased muscle strength and weight loss. The main risk of exercise for most people may be injuries, which can be prevented or minimized with precautions such as ramping up activity gradually, doing new activities only gently until you are used to them, and giving your body breaks when it asks.

Some people should ask their doctors whether they can exercise safely, how much to do, and which activities to choose. It is best to get medical clearance if you have not recently been active or if you have:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension 
  • Current or recent cancer treatment
  • Pregnancy
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart disease
  • Arthritis

As with medication and anything else in life, better safe than sorry. Ask your doctor if you have any concerns or doubts about your safe limits, or how to exercise safely.

Prevention versus Treatment


Over-the-counter and prescription medications are for treating conditions that are already present, such as pain, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and depression. Exercise may help manage conditions and can be life-saving, but it can also be preventive. A perfectly healthy person can benefit from getting active, and almost anyone, in almost any stage of health, can benefit.

Nobody wants to be on medications, until now. Exercise is one of the best to be on because it works and it makes you feel good all around. Lark DPP can help you get in your physical activity to lose weight and lower blood sugar, and so much more!

Author
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health