Most prescriptions require a trip to the local pharmacy, however,
one hospital's obesity program gives out prescription scripts
for exercise. As an attempt to battle obesity, this hospital includes
a unique physical fitness program as part of the doctors' orders.
An unlikely pairing of physicians and hiking enthusiasts make up
this personalized prescription for exercise program. Experts attribute
the success of the program to its individualized nature and providing
the patients with detailed trail maps to accomplish their weight-loss
The key is personalization and giving specific explanations similar
to a road map on how and why one should exercise more. For example,
the odds are much greater if a patient is given instructions to
walk a specific trail by their house as opposed to being advised
a vague recommendation such as, "You need to exercise more."
Studies support that the more specific a doctor's recommendations
are the more likely the patient will follow through with their recommendation.
One 72-year-old woman reaped great health benefits by following
her exercise prescription. In addition to losing 12 pounds, she
stated it made her realize the importance of exercising for good
For the most part the medical community has been slow to catch
on to the importance of addressing lifestyle factors such as exercise
as a means to disease prevention. The main reason doctors cited
for not discussing exercise with their patients is lack of time.
According to the Center for Disease Control, over half of Americans
don't exercise enough and one-quarter don't engage in
any physical activity.
Experts stressed the importance of doctors making the time to talk
to their patients about exercise, particularly with statistics showing
that brisk walking could reduce the risk of chronic diseases such
as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis by 40
One doctor at Dartmouth-Hitchcock developed a motivational weight-loss
program to fight obesity.
The Two- to Three-Minute Exercise Prescription
Sedentary and overweight patients receive a prescription from
their doctor with fitness advice along with a pamphlet of trail
Session includes a pep talk from the doctor about physical
activity and good health
Doctors can advise patients to buy a pedometer ($4 from the
Patients have the option to arrange for a student from Dartmouth
Medical School to make a follow-up call to check on their progress
in one month
The hospital would eventually like to expand their availability
of trail maps to include varying degrees of difficulty such as easy
to more challenging hikes. The majority of the $14,000 it took to
develop the program has been covered by a grant with help from the
National Park Service. Doctors in the program stated that since
the cost of the program is minimal, if it could help even 5 percent
of the participants it would be worth it.
February 14, 2005
News February 7, 2005