If you’ve been to the doctor recently to have your rash identified, the source of your agony probed with a cold, bony finger or for assistance chasing away the giant cloud of gloom that’s ruining your life, the session probably ended with the doc reaching for her trusty prescription pad and sending you off to load up on medication at the prescription counter.
Over at the universities and laboratories where scientists conduct their investigations into these things though, there is little doubt that Boots is not the place to go for your wonder drug, (even if that particular business does make shopping for cold remedies one of the greatest of all High Street retail experiences.)
Instead, experts believe that “Exercise” is what doctors should be writing on their little green pads and sending you off to discover.
“If there were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can,” wrote Mandy Oaklander in Time magazine last year, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.”
She quotes Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky of Canada’s McMaster University. “Going for a run is going to improve your skin health, your eye health, your gonadal health,” he says. “It’s unbelievable.”
A Dr Bob Sallis in a presentation to the Huffines Institute in the US in 2013 said that were exercise listed in the Physicians Desk Reference it would be the most powerful drug currently available.
In the UK, the Royal College of Physicians recommend that with just 150 minutes of exercise weekly (and it doesn’t have to be any more expensive or complex than walking), the long term benefits can include reduced chances of being knocked down by all the big ones, such as heart disease, stroke, Type 2 Diabetes and breast and colon cancer; a significantly reduced risk of depression and many other benefits unavailable in pill or ointment form.
Indeed, a “sedentary lifestyle” (sedentary in this sense means “crisps and biscuits”) is responsible, says the BMJ (joke-free magazine for doctors) for 5.3 premature deaths annually around the world, and over 90 per cent of doctors agreed that promoting physical activity is important.
In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concur, saying that our behaviour accounts for 50 per cent of our overall health. Much more than other factors, such as genetics (20 per cent), environment (20 per cent) or access to medical care (10 per cent).
But still with the prescriptions… In a Health Survey for England taken three years ago, half of all women and 43 per cent of men are regularly taking prescription drugs, with cholesterol-lowering statins, pain relief and anti-depressants the most common.
Those drugs are prescribed by members of the same organisation (The Royal College of Physicians) that recommends exercise as the most effective solution to such ailments.
While the experts try and get their story straight, therefore, Saint Peacock recommends giving the tablets a rest and getting outside.
Help the NHS accountants get to grips with their trying budget riddles by prescribing yourself life’s very own wonder drug.
Help reduce the waiting times to visit a GP by not going.
These people will never give up prescribing you stuff – it’s in their nature. They’d prescribe themselves dinner if they could.
If it’s a broken bone you’re concerned about, or have come off worse in an encounter with an angry neighbour then the NHS is the place for you.
But if you’re looking for ways to feel significantly better about yourself and improve your chances of a longer life, then let Doctor Exercise be your guide.