New Castle News

Editorials

October 3, 2013

Our Opinion: Exercise aids health, so why is message often ignored?

NEW CASTLE — Have a health-related problem? They have a pill for that.

In the modern world, medication is frequently seen as the answer for what ails you. But a new study appears to confirm what is really little more than common sense.

Proper diet and exercise can be very useful in dealing with a variety of human illnesses, in some cases proving just as helpful as drugs when dealing with health problems.

A report published by the British Medical Journal touted the benefits of exercise by stating that there was no statistical difference in results between test subjects who used exercise or drug treatments after suffering coronary disease or prediabetes.

Basically, the outcomes among the test subjects were the same, whether they opted for lifestyle changes or medications to deal with their conditions. The conclusion of the researchers was that physicians should stress the health benefits of proper diet and exercise — which we would hope they already do.

We’re not sure this research breaks any new ground. There is a litany of medical research indicating there are meaningful health benefits found in healthy lifestyles. This doesn’t mean people should be training for marathons or counting every calorie. But keeping active has been shown to reduce heart disease risks, high blood pressure and the impact of arthritis, among other things.

There’s no secret to any of this. Yet data constantly suggests Americans don’t get enough exercise, and obesity is literally a growing problem. So why aren’t people taking better care of themselves?

The main answer, we suppose, is that people like to eat, and exercise takes time and effort. And a culture that prizes instant gratification will opt to reach for medication because it can work quickly to address a problem with minimal effort.

Perhaps this latest study, showing no real difference between exercise and medication, will be used to justify further drug taking along with exercise avoidance. After all, why not take the easy way out?

But prescription medications come with a variety of side effects. They also come at a financial costs and don’t necessarily provide the range of health benefits produced by regular exercise. A particular drug may be helping your high blood pressure, while it does nothing for the plaque growing in your coronary arteries.

The message here is that simple advocacy for a sound diet and prudent exercise isn’t enough. A wise society and its institutions will work to convey the message to individuals that it is in their long-term benefit to pursue proper fitness decisions as part of a healthy lifestyle choice.

Yes, the drugs will be there. But when feasible, the better option is to see that they aren’t needed.

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