A drug called exercise

A drug called exercise

Exercise is the best medicine. In a world of Fitbits and activewear, you hear it everywhere. For good reason!

The following benefits are detailed below:

  • 34% reduction in risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • Health benefits worth $1900 AUD per year
  • Lower rate of cancer recurrence
  • More effective than drug treatment in patients with stroke

There are only a few conditions that we recommend you take a proper rest from exercise, and even in those cases (like acute injuries), some minor movement might be more beneficial. In Australia, we have one of the highest obesity rates in the world, and it is estimated to be costing Victoria $14.4 billion each year (Access Economics, 2008). There’s even emerging evidence suggesting that regardless of obesity, a low level of exercise is more concerning, and is linked to death.

Those located in the suburbs who rely on cars for transport often lack basic physical activity such as walking or cycling, which is contributing to these high rates of obesity and high blood pressure. Walking or cycling to work reduces the risk of coronary heart disease (Hu et al, 2007). Walking is quite literally the best medicine for type 2 diabetes prevention – brisk walking for an hour a day has been associated with a 34% reduction in risk (Hu, 2011).

A European study estimated that a person who switched from driving to walking for a 2.5km journey to work would experience health benefits worth €1300 (~$1900 AUD) per annum (Rabl and Nazelle, 2011).

Even when I’m sick, Evan?

Physical exercise including walking will continue to provide health benefits when people are affected by serious illness, in fact there is no more important time to exercise.

Cancer studies helpfully summarised in The Conversation include:

  • A large long-term study of women in the U.S., some of whom later developed breast or bowel cancer, found that those who self-reported higher levels of physical activity had a much lower rate (up to 50%) of cancer recurrence.
  • A follow up of nearly 3,000 nurses found that those meeting current U.S. physical activity guidelines almost halved their risk of death from breast cancer compared with those who were sedentary.
  • In the nurses who developed bowel cancer, those exercising more than the physical activity recommendations halved their risk of dying.

A study of people with Parkinson’s disease, reported in the Los Angeles Times, found improvements in aerobic fitness, motor function, mood, fatigue levels and quality of life for those who walked regularly for exercise.

The study Comparative effectiveness of exercise and drug interventions on mortality outcomes is detailed in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). It found no statistically significant difference between exercise and drug interventions in the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease and pre-diabetes. It also found that exercise was actually more effective than drug treatment in patients with stroke.

I use “accidental” walking as the best way to trick yourself into doing more, that you can build it into every day life:

  • Parking further away for a few extra minutes walk
  • Walking to a cafe or park that is further away
  • Using phone conversations as an excuse to get up and move – we’re not stuck to the wall!

It’s time to get moving!

Thanks to Dr Bob Sallis in A Walking Revolution.

Look after yourselves,


Walking Through The Park