Rx for Exercise: Lifetime Fitness

You have to exercise religiously," says vibrant 100-year-old Julius Spielberg of Bloomfield, Michigan, who, since attending the Pritikin Longevity Center at 77, walks daily and competes in racewalking events locally, nationally, and internationally.

“I have two doctors – my left foot and my right,” he laughs.

Medical experts agree. In a recent study from the American Heart Association, a team of top health scientists advises doctors nationwide to always recommend regular physical exercise to their patients to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease.

The recommended amount: At least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk, on most or all days of the week.

Certainly, AHA has issued reports in past extolling the benefits of exercise. The latest report, published in Circulation and led by Dr. Paul D. Thompson of the Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, itemizes new and growing information. Here are the highlights:

Compared to sedentary people, people who exercise regularly cut their risk of blood vessel disease in half.

Regular physical activity also reduces the risk of many other life threatening diseases, including diabetes, depression, and several types of cancer.

Regular exercise is as cardio protective as commonly used drugs used to prevent cardiovascular-related ills, such as aspirin and beta-blockers.

In the report, the authors also encourage doctors themselves to exercise in order to “set a positive example” for the patients.

“That’s very important,” agrees surgeon William Friedman, M.D., of St. Louis, Missouri, who recently attended the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa. “Unfortunatly, few doctors understand the value of exercise and nutrition. Seldom do the medical schools they attended have even adequate courses in these subjects.

“That’s why I believe all physicians would benefit by going to Pritikin. It was striking to me how much I personally learned about nutrition and exercise.”

The Circulation report echoes Dr. Friedman’s concerns, asserting that the medical community needs further education about the value of both exercise and nutrition.

“To get doctors enthusiastic, you have to show them, and that’s why it’s so important to get them down to the Pritikin Center for a week,” states Dr. Friedman. “Many would benefit personally from the program, too. There are an awfully lot of overweight, out-of-shape physicians. They need to experience the education as well as the weight loss and better health they would feel. I cannot imagine they would not be affected.”

Circulation 2003; 10: 1161-01

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