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One of the best reasons to develop the habit of fitness is that it can reduce your reliance on medications. It makes my day when fitness clients inform me that they have been able to discontinue a medication because of the improvement in their blood pressure, lipid, or sugar levels. Pain relief medications are no longer necessary when joints and muscles work more efficiently. Exercise has been shown to work as well or better for the treatment of depression. The quality of sleep is enhanced and brain neurochemistry improves when you exercise on a consistent basis. The habitual performance of exercise is the most effective method of reducing medications.

On a daily basis, the American public is being told that the answer to all physical problems is a pill. An enormous amount of money is spent on the marketing of lifestyle pharmaceuticals. The May issue of Health Magazine had eighteen full page advertisements for medications. Three were over the counter drugs—Motrin, Tylenol, and Prilosic, and the other fifteen were physician prescribed medications for everything from bipolar disorder to heart failure. Direct to the public, pharmaceutical advertisement comes at us from television, radio, print, and social media. A physical therapy website I visit on a regular basis has decided to feature advertisements for rheumatoid arthritis medications and over the counter “joint pain relief formulas.”

I want to see an ad that tells the consumer to “Ask your doctor about exercising on a regular basis.” The voice will then quickly state that the side effects are weight loss, improved sleep, fewer falls, lower blood pressure, better circulation, and a diminished chance of hospitalization and long term institutional care.

Take the time to read the recent New York Times article by Paula Span, “The Danger of ‘Polypharmacy,’ the Ever-Mounting Pile of Pills.” My favorite part of the article was the quote by Dr. Alexander: “We spend an awful lot of money and effort trying to figure out when to start medications and shockingly little on when to stop.”

_- Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS_

To view the New York Times article, click on the link below: