“Dunedin sports and exercise medicine specialist Dr Hamish Osborne is challenging New Zealand GPs to start viewing exercise as a powerful medicine that should be prescribed to all patients.
Osborne, scheduled to speak today at the Royal New Zealand College of GPs conference in Christchurch, said literature overwhelmingly supported the use of exercise as medicine. Research showed that women diagnosed with breast cancer have their survival rate doubled if they exercise for an hour a day.
Similarly, research showed that with bowel cancer, for those who need chemotherapy, exercise was as powerful as chemo.
Osborne said the treatment effect of exercise was so powerful the American College of Sports Medicine was pushing the line that it might become unethical not to prescribe exercise to everyone.
“The government here does not spend any money on promoting it [exercise] but they pour gazillions of dollars into drugs to try and treat the illness that could be partially prevented by exercising. The exercise medicine prevention numbers are, in general, all enormous. You’re talking about 50% reduction of just about whatever you name.”
Osborne, based at the Dunedin School of Medicine, said a typical GP consultation did not provide enough time for exercise medicine issues and many GPs had never been taught about its effectiveness. Previous governments had toyed with the idea of “green prescriptions” but not enough money had been put into it to make it work.
“There needs to be a philosophical change at a whole bunch of levels,” said Osborne.
Osborne said that as a guideline for the adult population, everyone should walk for 30 minutes daily, five days a week, plus another hour of slightly higher intensity exercise. They should also be lifting something heavy a couple of times a week.”
Another study shows that heavy physical activity may significantly reduce heart disease deaths, especially after age 45.