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Exercise Is Medicine and So Much More!

Natalie
Stein
October 13, 2023
Exercise Is Medicine and So Much More! - Disease Prevention - Lark Health
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*Results may vary. Based on the average weight loss in three, 68-week clinical trials of patients without diabetes who reached and maintained a dose of 2.4mg/week of GLP-1 treatment, along with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity. View study here.
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Are you looking for a simple way to feel better and get healthier? Exercise may do the trick. Lark is all about making daily behavior choices to improve health, and getting more physical activity is one of them. 

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, but so different, 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 needs 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. On the other hand, swimming increases cardiovascular fitness. However, exercise tends to be more generalized than drugs are, and 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 a variety of chronic 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. 

You may not have a choice when it comes to prescription drugs, 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 and other experts encourage setting a goal of at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity. 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:

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 hypertension. Exercise may help treat conditions such as high blood pressure or high blood sugar, but it can also be preventive. Someone who has no signs of hypertension or prediabetes, for example, can enjoy benefits of exercise such as lowering risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and depression.

Nobody wants to take medications regimen -  until now. Exercise is one of the best prescriptions to have because it works and it makes you feel good all around. Lark can help you get in your physical activity to lose weight and so much more!

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