Hard work pays off: even sick people benefit from physical activity


Children instinctively know this – exercising is fun, makes you happy and keeps you fit. This begs the question of when and why this innate love for movement dwindles in many of us as we get older. After all, diseases like type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure can be considerably controlled with sufficient exercise.

Photo: Children play soccer in a park

Children love too play and exercise - adults often don't; panthermedia.net/anatols

It is a paradox of Western society. On the one hand, there are numerous fitness studios and sports clubs near most residential areas. Woods and parks invite us all to move around outdoors. Yet on the other side, more and more physicians bemoan the fact that society is getting too fat. Obviously, poor diet and too much time spent sitting in school or at the office are contributing factors in this. But why don’t we at least use our spare time to exercise? We would all benefit from it.

Doing something before it hurts

Ideally, we should exercise before diseases "force" us to do sports. Prevention is the key word here. In Germandy, there even is a specific law for this, to make sure that everything possible is done in daily life, daycare centers, at school and at work to prevent diseases from happening. In an interview with MEDICA.de, Oliver Hasselmann of the Institute for Workplace Health Promotion explains how companies can implement this.

Obviously, physical activity is only a portion of the necessary measures – albeit one that should not be underestimated. German health insurance companies have also identified this current trend and frequently subsidize fitness classes for their insured members. Many fitness studies offer classes like spinning or spinal fitness programs that meet the necessary requirements. That’s why it always pays off to ask your health insurance provider whether a specific fitness program is subsidized! Family doctors should also point out this option to their patients.

Once you have overcome laziness and procrastination, fitness trackers or wearables can help you to stay with the program. There are many different devices available on the market; you simply need to select the right one for you. These gadgets are obviously also valuable aids for top athletes. Just for them, the German Federal Institute of Sport Science along with the Innovation Factory created the "Wearables im Spitzensport" (English: Wearable Technology in Competitive Sports), WISS web portal. Here, top athletes can compare notes with each other and companies. Click here to get to the extensive interview at MEDICA.de.

Photo: Old woman working out

Sport is almost always healthy - at any age and even in almost all diseases; & Copy panthermedia.net/Kacso Sandor

It’s never too late

But what can you do once the horse is out of the barn? For the longest time, patients were cautioned to take it easy depending on the severity of the disease. But this statement is no longer regarded as true today. The latest research in sports medicine reveals that even cancer and cardiac patients benefit from an individually tailored fitness program. Professor Martin Halle also confirms this fact in an interview with MEDICA.de in June. "Sports therapy is important for a number of diseases. Many studies have been conducted over the past ten years that are now also being put into practice. Several health insurance companies, among them the German Technician Health Insurance (German: Techniker Krankenkasse), already firmly established exercise as therapy. They try to communicate to patients that there are other options – aside from medication – to fight their illness. This first and foremost includes cardiovascular diseases but also various types of cancer, osteoporosis or dementia. For the most part, these are chronic inflammatory diseases and physical training is very helpful and important in this context." Click here to read the entire interview.

These research findings have also already been implemented in the area of rehabilitation. This is why the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus (UCC) in Dresden launched a rehabilitation program for cancer patients. Titled "Aktiv in der Nachsorge" (English: Staying active after cancer treatment), patients receive tips and instructions on how they can find their way back to more exercise. In the press release to announce the launch of this campaign, the director of the UCC, Prof. Gerhard Ehninger, emphasizes, "Activity during the cancer aftercare phase is becoming increasingly important for the affected parties. Improved early detection and treatment options have reduced the risk of cancer recurrence to where now the quality of life after the cancer treatment plays a major role."

This is why in light of these findings, it would be preferable if family doctors would increasingly prescribe individual physical therapy programs for their patients. The way to get there could be through respective choices in continuing medical education for physicians.

Foto: Simone Ernst

© B. Frommann

Simone Ernst