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How and Why Your Health Improves When Your Doctor Prescribes Exercise

It’s surely no surprise to you that exercise is good for your health. But maybe you’re struggling to stick with a workout routine. Perhaps you don’t have much free time, you’re dealing with chronic pain or you find exercise boring.

Having your doctor prescribe exercise can help. “When your doctor prescribes exercise, it’s individually tailored to you,” said Loren Lasater MD, a family medicine physician with Banner Beyond in Arizona.

Your doctor knows your physical health factors

Your doctor can get you started on an exercise program targeted to your specific health conditions and your level of fitness. “A one-on-one conversation with your doctor can focus on the benefits you can expect and what you’re able to do physically,” Dr. Lasater said.

Your doctor can:

  • Review your age, overall fitness and health conditions
  • Advise you on starting slowly and building up gradually
  • Calculate your maximum heart rate and recommend how intensely you should exercise
  • Point you toward lower-impact activities that won’t worsen your pain if you have issues like knee problems
  • Recommend a good blend of cardio exercise and strength training
  • Help you with balance, flexibility or gait training, if needed

“You need that direct, physician-to-patient guidance to make a true exercise prescription,” Dr. Lasater said.

For example, if you have diabetes and you’re overweight, your doctor can help you start a routine that might help you better control your disease. “I’ve seen a lot of people go from diabetes to prediabetes and get off their medication,” Dr. Lasater said.

If you have heart disease or lung disease, your doctor might want you to start with a cardiac or pulmonary rehab program, so you learn to exercise safely and you build confidence. From there, you can continue to exercise on your own, with your doctor’s support. “There’s extensive research that shows even complex patients who get on a regular program improve longevity, even with their conditions,” Dr. Lasater said.

Your doctor can help you stay healthy

An exercise prescription can help if you’re in good health, too. Your doctor can help you develop a plan that can increase your longevity and overall fitness and keep you in optimal shape. Exercise can reduce your risk of:

Your doctor can also help you explore different exercise options, so you’ll find something you enjoy. “There are types of things you can do that are not necessarily seen as exercise, and that can be fun,” Dr. Lasater said. Done right, gardening, yard work, housework, dancing, golfing and dog-walking can count as exercise. And not all exercise has to be cardio. Weightlifting or resistance training, yoga and tai chi can build muscle and bone strength and help you prevent falls.

Your doctor can help you manage your mental health with exercise

If you’re struggling with anxiety, stress, depression or insomnia, your doctor may recommend some outdoor exercise, which research has found can help treat these disorders. “It’s one of the first things to try for people with these conditions,” Dr. Lasater said. “A lot of research shows going outside and enjoying the awe of nature has major psychological benefits, and exercise, in general, is very helpful.”

The bottom line

If you want to improve your health, talk to your doctor about prescribing exercise. Your doctor can tailor an exercise recommendation to your health and your needs. If you would like to connect with a doctor who can help, reach out to Banner Health.

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