Why Doctors Should Prescribe Walking
I don’t believe in miracle cures, except for one.
There’s one intervention that’s effective for a wider range of conditions, both physical and mental, than any medicine – and it’s entirely free. I’m talking about a daily 30 minute walk.
If the effects of a daily 30 minute walk could be condensed into a pill and sold in pharmacies, everyone would be taking it. Average quality of life would shoot up, and the burden on hospitals would be massively reduced thanks to the healthier population.
A few of the health benefits of a 30 minute walk are:
- Reduces pain for patients with knee arthritis by 40-50%
- Reduces progression of dementia by 50%
- Reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in pre-diabetic patients by 60%
- Reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression by 40-50%
- Improves cardiovascular health, increases bone density, reduces later life muscle wasting and much more
All of this from a treatment that requires no medication, is entirely free and can be prescribed to any able-bodied person.
Unfortunately, it’s much more difficult to convince someone to go on a 30 minute walk than take some medicine, so the life-saving effects of this simple intervention still goes under-utilised.
Why don’t doctors prescribe walking?
In the West, healthcare is highly medicalised. I had always known this to be the case, but I saw first hand just how much we depend on medicine when I completed a pharmacology programme so that I could prescribe medication myself.
When you go and see a doctor, the first point of call is to prescribe a medicine. You would rarely find a doctor prescribe a daily 30 minute walk, despite it being as effective – and often more effective – in the treatment of a range of common medical and mental conditions than medicine.
Of course, you can’t blame doctors for this. Just as there are few doctors who would prescribe walking, there are few patients who would accept the prescription. People are so used to receiving medications for their problems that a non-medical treatment is seen as inferior.
This is one of the main benefits of being able to spend more time with our patients. We have the time to educate you on how your body works, why you might be feeling pain and how simple exercises and activities can improve your symptoms.
Doctors with ten minutes to see a patient don’t have that luxury, and a medication is often the quickest way of improving symptoms for the patient, which keeps them happy.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t be using medicine, and that medicine shouldn’t be prescribed immediately. The widespread availability of various medicines is what has allowed us to live longer, healthier, happier lives.
But, long term, we need more than just medication, especially with the increasing healthcare demands of our ageing population. A combination of medication and lifestyle changes is what provides the best outcome, both for the patient and for society.
If there’s one thing we want to achieve at West London Physio, it’s to get people moving. So, make a 30 minute walk a part of your daily routine, and spread the message to your friends and family.
Cameron Tudor – Clinical Director and Prescriber