When Was the Last Time Your Doctor Wrote you a Script for Exercise?

Exercise, Hiking

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 goals.

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 health.

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 percent.

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 maps

  • 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 receptionist)

  • 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.

Newsday.com February 14, 2005

Yahoo News February 7, 2005

Dr. Mercola's Comments:


If you want to become healthy it is important to develop a deep appreciation of using exercise as one of the key building blocks to optimizing your health. Try viewing exercise as a drug that needs to be precisely prescribed to achieve maximum benefits.

The simple act of writing out a prescription for exercise is an excellent approach to taking a proactive approach for your health. It's also far more logical, inexpensive and actually radically reduces your risk of most every chronic disease known to man.

A daily exercise routine is one of the main factors in achieving optimal wellness.

Fortunately the government has now seen the light and is now advising that most Americans need 60-90 minutes of daily aerobic exercise. The key to exercising effectively is to make sure the variables below are properly addressed. By doing so, you will ensure all your hard efforts are not wasted and are having a positive effect on your body. To aid you in your exercise efforts, there are three important variables to keep in mind:

  • Length of time
  • Frequency
  • Intensity

I encourage my patients to gradually increase the amount of time they are exercising to 60 to 90 minutes a day. Initially the frequency is daily. This is a treatment dose until they normalize their weight or insulin levels. Once normalized, they will only need to exercise three to four times a week.

You should exercise hard enough so that it is difficult to talk to someone next to you. When you are exercising that hard your cardiovascular system is under such a significant amount of stress that the mere act of talking makes you unable to provide your body with enough oxygen. However, if you cannot carry on a conversation AT ALL, then you have gone too far and need to decrease the intensity.

I've devoted many pages on my Web site to the wonderful benefits exercise will do for your health. If you need some direction to get started, I urge you to review my beginner's exercise page that includes links to other pages and a free table you can download to keep track of your progress.

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