Approaching Exercise As Medicine

Approaching Exercise As Medicine

What if there were a single medication that could help you sleep better, reduce stress, give you more energy and address a wide range of common health issues? Believe it or not, such a medication does exist – but it doesn't come in a prescription bottle.

Exercise helps people shed unwanted pounds and maintain a healthy weight, but it can also accomplish so much more. Regular workouts are hugely beneficial for both mental and physical health.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is conducting a study to learn how exercise affects the body on the molecular level. This may help researchers discover which exercises are best for different individual body types and allow doctors to “prescribe” specific workouts. At Holland Hospital, providers are already putting the idea of “prescribing” workouts into practice.

“Exercise is medicine,” said Tina Vande Guchte, an ACE Certified Medical Exercise Specialist at Holland Hospital’s Healthy Life Programs.


The benefits of exercise.

In addition to burning calories that were destined to be stored as fat, exercise aids sleep and digestion, lowers blood pressure and can help manage stress and chronic pain. “Exercise helps us physically, mentally and emotionally,” said Vande Guchte.

Different exercises provide different health benefits. For example, a person can strengthen muscles and bones by lifting weights, increase their flexibility by stretching or improve heart health through aerobic activity. But whatever your health goals may be, the most important step is to simply get moving.

“The best workout is the one you will do,” said Vande Guchte.


Prescribing workouts.

At Holland Hospital, doctors can “prescribe” exercise as medicine through the hospital’s Lifestyle Medicine program, which helps people adopt healthier habits through personalized approaches that include nutrition, fitness, sleep and stress reduction.

"Doctors at Holland Hospital refer clients my way and I help them with a holistic lifestyle approach that's doable," said Vande Guchte. "I fill the gap between the doctor's advice and the client's application."

As a medical exercise specialist, Vande Guchte can spend a considerable amount of one-on-one time with a client, allowing for information sharing, accountability and feedback. She can tailor workouts to fit individual needs and circumstances like high blood pressure, asthma or back pain.


Embracing exercise.

In the future, the results of the NIH study may be able to help people who exercise but have hit a plateau and are no longer seeing results. But for most people, it’s more important to get moving today. “80% of Americans don't have a basic level of fitness,” said Vande Guchte.

Someone new to exercise doesn’t even need to join a gym! Vande Guchte recommends simply walking for 30 minutes a day. “Almost everyone can start today with a brisk walk,” she said. From there, a person can work up to moderate and even vigorous workouts. 

Ideally, each week should include three days of vigorous exercise or five days of moderate exercise. Aim for aerobic exercises like walking, biking, swimming or rowing.


Where can I learn more?

Holland Hospital’s Healthy Life Programs can help you reach your personal health goals and improve your quality of life. Learn more about the program’s services or set up a one-on-one appointment with ACE Certified Medical Exercise Specialist Tina Vande Guchte.