Dec. 16, 2013 at 6:27 PM ET
In "The Exercise Cure," Dr. Jordan Metzl gives a frank and deceptively simple explanation of the greatest health benefit afforded to us all: exercise. Here's an excerpt.
The Miracle Drug You Need to Take
Imagine yourself at your next doctor's appointment. The doc walks into the office, sits down across from you, looks you in the eye, and says, "Good news, I can help you. I'm writing you a prescription and I want you to follow it to the letter."
"What is it?" you ask.
"It's a miracle drug," he replies.
You chuckle. "Sorry, doctor, but I really don't believe in miracles."
He nods as if expecting you to say that, then says: "You will."
"I doubt it," you reply.
"Well, what if I told you that this drug treats everything? And what if I told you that this drug helps prevent almost every illness you might get, including certain types of cancer? And that it's 100 percent effective, and it works for every person around the world, rich or poor, young or old, with no side effects?"
"That's crazy," you say. "There's no such thing."
The doctor only smiles . . . and begins telling you all about this mythical, magical miracle drug
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First of all, he says, it's the weight-loss drug millions have been waiting for. It's very simple: If you use this drug, you will lose weight in a totally healthy way. Imagine, he says, the implications for the obesity crisis. And for those who have weight-related health issues, the drug gives immediate benefits. In the endocrine system, for example, research has shown that this miracle drug can reduce the progression of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. For some patients who stay on this drug longterm and increase their dosage, type 2 diabetes can be reversed.
For the cardiovascular system, the drug prevents heart disease. It immediately helps address hypertension (high blood pressure) and hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) and greatly reduces your chance of suffering a heart attack or a stroke. And if you've already been diagnosed with heart disease or related problems? This drug helps improve your condition.
How about everyday health problems? This drug boosts your immune system against common maladies like the cold and flu, reducing the intensity and duration, or preventing them outright.
In your brain, the drug can block the progression of dementia and Alzheimer's by up to 50 percent. The drug has also been shown to help you keep your mental faculties longer in life, and it will keep your brain working better and longer compared to those who refuse to take it.
If we stay in your head and look at psychological factors, the drug also works wonders. It's been shown to reduce symptoms of depression by 30 percent, and closer to 50 percent in higher doses ("That's the beauty of this drug," says the doctor. "It's very hard to O.D."). It's also incredibly effective against anxiety disorders. The drug attacks low energy and boosts self-esteem. It lets you work at a higher level for a longer time. It can help you quit any addiction and is especially effective with smoking and drinking. This medicine improves sleep quality and can cure sleep disorders like insomnia and apnea.
Also, and this is a big one, we know that chronic low-level inflammation in the body plays a key role in causing some of the worst diseases we have: heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinsons disease, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, and more. Our miracle drug, when used regularly, helps tame inflammation in the body, thus helping prevent all of these nasty outcomes.
The drug also helps make your body indestructible (or, at least, a lot less likely to break down). For the skeleton, it makes bones stronger and muscles less likely to be injured. In older people, this drug aids in mobility and prevents falls. Postmenopausal women who took this drug four times a week had a 47 percent lower risk for hip fracture. And folks in one study took this drug and saw their knee arthritis pain reduced by almost half.
That's part of the miracle in this miracle drug: The more you take it, the more active you become. This drug can make you better at your favorite sport. It helps you jump higher, run faster, and improve your flexibility and coordination.
Last but not least: This drug even helps prevent certain types of cancer and can help you fight back if you ever get a diagnosis.
"But I lied," says the doctor. "There are side effects."
"See? I knew it," you say. "Let me guess: Deadly rash and uncontrollable drooling."
The doctor laughs. "Not quite. There are two side effects: Every single person who takes this medicine decreases their risk of premature death, and every single person who takes this medicine raises their quality of life."
The doctor leans back and lets all of this sink in.
"Okay, Doc," you say. "If everything you say is true, then every doctor in the world who didn't prescribe this medicine to every patient that came in would be committing medical malpractice."
Your doctor looks at you and smiles. "One hundred percent correct. So let's talk about how you're going to fill your prescription.…"
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By now you've guessed it. The miracle medicine that works across every disease state is called exercise.
And everything I just told you is true. Science has shown again and again, across all manner of diseases, maladies, and health risks, that exercise can prevent, improve, or outright cure your symptoms. As a sports medicine physician and an avid athlete myself, I've written this book to teach you how to maximize your dose of the world's most effective medicine.
THE ONE THING YOU CAN DO TODAY TO LIVE LONGER
Yes, there's that word again. But as you'll read, more and more research has emerged showing that exercise lengthens life.
Consider just this one piece of research: A 2012 study in the journal PLOS Medicine showed that 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week (that's half an hour of brisk walking a day for 5 days) increased life expectancy by 3.5 years. Those in the study who upped their exercise intensity increased life expectancy by 4.2 years.
Understand that this wasn't a small group of college students measured over a few weeks. This review looked at data of more than 600,000 people.
That's one thing you can do today to extend your life.
Reprinted from The Exercise Cure by Jordan D. Metzl, MD, with Andrew Heffernan, CSCS. Copyright (c) 2013 by Rodale Inc. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.