Redefine Physical Activity As Medicine

The new year brings new resolutions and goals that are often based on promoting a healthy lifestyle. The regular practice of physical activity is one of these behaviors that are part of the new year plan.

However, approximately 60% of adults who initiate modifications of these behaviors decide to abandon them during the first 3 to 6 months. Even 1 in 3 adults does not meet the minimum recommendations established by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

In Puerto Rico, we cannot ignore additional challenges to drive these changes and successfully integrate them into our lifestyle. Among them, aspects related to economic resources and / or social support, lack of security in recreational-sports areas, environmental and / or climatological factors, personnel without the proper technical and / or scientific preparation trying to offer incorrect information and the aggressive impact of Pharmaceutical sector in the management of chronic diseases.

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Many of the chronic diseases that abound in Puerto Rico (for example, heart disease that reach about 49.8% of adults) characteristically establish physical inactivity as a modifiable risk factor. They even propose to promote daily habits in the early stages of the medical management plan to improve the patient’s condition.

It is valuable to highlight how we define physical activity in the context of our lives and culture. Redefining physical activity as a type of “medicine” and a way to prevent chronic diseases is of enormous value, and requires the attention of every health professional. On many occasions, we usually focus on body composition changes as the main goal to participate in a physical activity.

Currently, the literature indicates that the desire to improve body composition helps to adopt or begin an exercise plan. However, it does not facilitate adherence to it. Emphasis must be placed on developing health programs that not only educate the patient about the benefits of physical activity, but provide tools to make it part of their daily lifestyle.

Adherence to any behavior modification or treatment is usually challenging. The following strategies have been beneficial in the context of physical activity: 1) develop an action plan with intentions of implementation (where, when and how); 2) create realistic goals that can be monitored; 3) reinforce progress by identifying what thoughts, situations, or circumstances put us at risk of deviating from our initial plan; 4) find flexibility within our action plan and avoid “abstinence violation effect” – “I failed one day, therefore, I must not continue my behavior change”; and 5) make small changes that create significant results (such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking longer when shopping, walking on our beaches weekly and monitoring the time we sit daily).

But what happens if you have led a somewhat sedentary life? It’s never too late. Daily physical activity has shown great benefits, regardless of the age at which it starts.

We have a personal responsibility, both physical and mental with our health. What will you do today for a better quality of life and greater productivity in your days?

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