Diet pills and expensive weight-loss programs pull in millions of dollars each year from Americans who want to shed a few pounds, feel better, and live longer. But Jordan Metzl, M.D., argues the best medicine for health and longevity is simply daily exercise — and a growing body of scientific research backs him up.
In his new book, "The Exercise Cure: A Doctor’s No-Pill Prescription for Better Health and Longer Life," Dr. Metzl offers a no-nonsense prescription for longer, healthier life that involves no pills, potions, or pound-shedding programs. Its primary message: Get moving — even a little exercise is better than none.
"Imagine if you walked into your doctor's office and sat down and your doc said, 'Hey listen, you know I have a drug and if you take this drug you will live a longer, healthier, happier life. Not only that but many of the diseases that you will encounter potentially over the course of your life … could be treated and in some cases prevented outright, ' You’d pay attention," Dr. Metzl tells Newsmax Health.
"We have this drug now and it's called exercise and the goal of my book and message is to get everyone in America off their couches and off their rear ends and moving every single day of 2014."
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Dr. Metzl's recommendations are based on the latest sports research findings that indicate regular exercise can not only treat but also prevent many chronic, including heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer, dementia, arthritis, osteoporosis, sexual dysfunction, and even sleep problems.
A recent study by researchers from the London School of Economics, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute at Harvard Medical School, and Stanford University School of Medicine found, for instance, that exercise is as effective as many drugs when it comes to cutting the risks of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other conditions.
The findings, published in the British Medical Journal BMJ.com, were based on a review of 305 clinical trials involving 339,274 individuals provided compelling evidence that more clinical trials comparing the effectiveness of exercise and drugs are urgently needed to help doctors and patients make the best treatment decisions. In the meantime, exercise "should be considered as a viable alternative to, or alongside, drug therapy," the researchers concluded.
Despite the well-known health benefits of exercise, most adults do not get the recommended minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, specialists note. Yet prescription drug use continues to skyrocket for obesity-related cardiovascular problems.
"The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of exercise a week, which is about 30 minutes a day, and if you can do that all the benefits of exercise…will kick in for you," he says. "So it's so important to try and start moving, even if you don't feel like you can., just move a little bit, it will make a huge difference in your health."
Dr. Metzl's book details specific exercises that can treat and prevent cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, sexual issues, musculoskeletal problems, cancer, sexual dysfunction, and psychological conditions. He also provides expert guidance for beginners as well as advanced athletes to boost their physical and mental health.
Among the specific recommendations he makes:
Beginners (1-3 months): Look for ways to build low-impact exercise into your everyday life, and aim to be active for at least 30 minutes a day for one month. You don't even have to do all 30 minutes at once, but break it up into 10-minute sessions. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car far away from the grocery store or any other building so you have to walk a longer distance, take a walk whenever you use your cellphone.
Intermediate exercisers (4-6 months): Once you've begun to build regular low-impact exercise into your lifestyle, try to add some regular strength-building exercises and routine cardiovascular aerobic activity, such as running, swimming, or walking on a treadmill. "You don't need a fancy gym, you don't need fancy equipment to exercise," he says. "You need a little bit of motivation, so things like jumping jacks and pushups, exercises like planks, squats. Things that can start building full body strength. "
Advanced athletes (7-9 months): Individuals who have six months of regular exercise under their belt, can try to push a little harder with more demanding daily workout routines. Extend your cardio aerobic activity to 45 minutes (or longer, if you can) and look to add weight-training to your strength-building exercises.
Dr. Metzl says his exercise plans are appropriate for people of all ages and body types, no matter what their health status.
"I often hear people [say] I'm too old so I can’t do this, or I'm too overweight, I can't do this," he says. "But I have patients in my office and that I detail in my book of all ages and with all different kinds of diseases and illnesses. And exercise is both a preventive medicine and a treatment medicine.
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