Sunday, October 12, 2008

Exercise: Taking Your Health Into Your Own Hands

When you see a doctor because you are ill, your doctor will provide you with a list of suggestions to help make you healthy again. These suggestions can range from taking antibiotics to fight an infection, to icing a sprained elbow. One common suggestion on every list, regardless of the illness, is exercise. Even if you have a torn ligament or broken bone, your doctor will suggest that you, in time, exercise the injured body part.

In family practice, I was interviewing a patient who had migraines. These migraines were excruciating and he said he would do anything to stop them from happening. He told me that the migraines came on after bouts of insomnia. He was also pre-hypertensive, which means his blood pressure is slightly higher than it should be. Now, considering exercise can help reduce blood pressure, and regular exercise can help regulate your sleeping cycle, I asked about the patient's current exercise regime. Turns out that he does not exercise, at all. It turned out that my preceptor (the doctor who runs the practice) had suggested exercise to this patient in the past, many times, without success. This patient would rather try a boatload of different pills than exercise 3 times a week.

The sad part is that this is not an uncommon occurrence among patients. Many patients do not exercise regularly, even when their chief health complaint may be solved by regular exercise. People would rather take medication with all kinds of scary side effects than jog around the block a couple times a week. Even more frightening, I say this living on the west coast, where we supposedly have a healthier style of living than our fellow Canadians living on the east coast.

Considering the economic slowdown we are facing, I wonder how many health care tax dollars could be better used elsewhere if people would just exercise more often.

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