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Excerise is Medicine

“If all of the benefits of exercise could be packaged in a single pill, it would be the most widely prescribed medication in the world.”

During their medical school training, young doctors-to-be learn about medications and drugs in their pharmacology course. During that time, they learn that these compounds have very unique properties especially relating to the human body. I always wondered why a section on exercise was never included in that curriculum. You might say that exercise is not a medicine but I would disagree. Medical dictionaries define medicine as “any drug or remedy.”

Clearly, exercise is a remedy and numerous scientific studies have shown it effective in the prevention and treatment of a wide variety of medical problems from heart disease and diabetes to osteoporosis and depression — and more. Like a medicine or drug, exercise results in very specific hormonal, biochemical, and structural changes in the human body. The similarities go much further. There is a dose-response curve which means that there are optimal amounts depending on the desired effect. Too little gives no results — too much, like a medicine overdose, can cause problems. For example, the correct dose of exercise strengthens bone and boosts immunity. Too much can weaken bones and deplete the immune system. Overtraining is also a well-known phenomenon.

All medications have a half-life which is a measure of how rapidly it leaves your system once you stop taking it. If you stop your exercise program, the many positive effects drop off in a fairly rapid fashion in the weeks to months that follow. You need to keep at it. While you can occasionally miss a dose, stopping is not an option — it needs to be a life-long habit. Also like medication, there are both exercise related addictions and allergies. It becomes rather clear that exercise is medicine, and it’s an easy pill to swallow.


Poison or potion? It is up to you. Remember, moderation is the key. Check with your doctor to see if there is a place for alcohol in your path to better health.

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