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Harvard Medical School promotes 'Exercise as Medicine' at global conference

Sports and fitness business managers are demonstrating the strength of their products and services to the health care community.
Sports and fitness business managers are demonstrating the strength of their products and services to the health care community.
Photo by Max Donner

“Is there a doctor in the house?” This melodramatic mainstay of movie dramas and occasional comedies became a real life drama on March 13, when Dr. Edward Philips, an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School presented an encouraging progress report on growing respect for fitness driven health at the 2014 IHRSA convention of health clubs. Close to the end of this inspiring discussion, Dr. Phillips actually had to leave early and forgo the question and answer session because a convention visitor had just had a seizure and needed medical attention. This real life drama was a timely reminder that the sports world needs well trained doctors -- and prevention is often one of the most effective treatment plans.

Dr. Phillips’ talk showed how more leaders in medical education are embracing the concept that exercise can achieve health goals as well as prescription medicines. Current research shows that one-half of premature deaths are related to poor lifestyle choices like inactivity and overeating. Over three-fourths of U.S. healthcare expenses are for chronic care, with total health care expenditures surpassing the $3 trillion mark. That makes a few dollars a week for dues at a health or sports club look like a very wise choice.

The medical community is getting serious about exercise and healthy nutrition with an academic publication called “the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine” and its own professional association, the “American College for Lifestyle Medicine.” They will take this academic track to healthy living to the next level at a conference to take place October 19 to 22 in San Diego. The name speaks for itself “Lifestyle Medicine: Treating the Cause.”

This superior recognition of the importance of exercise and the role the fitness industry plays in promoting better health is now reflected in a new direction for medical education. One of America’s newest medical schools on the campus of the University of South Carolina at Greenville is incorporating physical education and fitness into the core curriculum. Dr. Phillips himself conducts research and teaches at the “Institute of Lifestyle Medicine.” The Institute is operated by Harvard Medical School.

Continued medical research on the benefits of fitness can be advanced by more consultative relationships with the sports club and fitness communities, according to Dr. Phillips. Sports club owners are being encouraged to make their facilities available for academic research studies that can advance the cause of promoting exercise as medicine worldwide.