An active lifestyle is the best medicine

I spend more time these days writing prescriptions for… exercise.

Studies show that spending most of the day sitting still can be worse for your health than smoking. This is true regardless of genetics, body shape, or whether or not a person already suffers from other diseases.

Making exercise a habit will not only reduce the risk and impact of chronic diseases and cancer, but will also reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and general inflammation in the body.

Exercise improves cognitive function, sleep and mood in young and old.

People who are on the move and enjoy an active lifestyle are more likely to live and age more gracefully.

As we age, we lose muscle mass, our joints stiffen, our sight and hearing disappear. And the onset of frailty, or the loss of our body’s natural reserve, makes us vulnerable to the sudden dramatic consequences of seemingly minor events such as a simple treatable infection, a change in medication, or even a change in environment. .

Regular exercise and the strength gained through exercise reduce the risk of frailty.

When writing an exercise prescription, I am very specific. I set goals around frequency, intensity, minutes per session and types of exercises.

The pandemic has disrupted all of our routines. Everyone is tired. Motivation to exercise is naturally at an all-time low.

So I tell people, start with what is achievable. If they’re not used to any type of regular exercise, I recommend that they start with five minutes, 10 minutes, 15, or 20 minutes of exercise and then add one minute each week.

I suggest walking to start. I’m switching to bodyweight resistance training and more vigorous aerobic exercise. And then I go up from there, citing specific resources for more information.

For those who exercised regularly and no longer do so, my work turns to motivation and problem solving around barriers to resuming activity.

Becoming strong in spirit and strong in body is well worth the time and effort. So set a goal, then get up and move.



Nadia Alam is a physician from Halton and past president of the Ontario Medical Association. Its columns also appear on She can be reached through her website.

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