We often hear the saying ‘prevention is better than cure’.  Exercise as a preventative medicine has received much scientific research and media attention.

A 2017 research report by the Australia Department of Health and La Trobe University shows that as much as 31 per cent of the chronic disease suffered could have been prevented.  

Leading research in the UK shows that if people were sufficiently active, it could reduce the rate of many chronic disease by as much as 40%.  

• Dementia by up to 30 %

• Cardiovascular disease by up to 35%

• Type 2 Diabetes by up to 40%

• Some cancers such as colon and breast cancer by 30%

Unfortunately over 30% of the Australian population are insufficiently active.

According to Professor John Kelly of the National Heart Foundation, chronic disease is the leading cause of poor health and early death in Australia.  In 2014-15, more than 11 million Australians had at least one chronic disease and 25% of the population had two or more.

Preventable chronic disease is expensive

It is estimated that a third of the $25 billion spent on health care in Australia each year goes towards preventable conditions.

This means if these illnesses were prevented, we could save roughly $8 billion each year!

So how much we do spend as a nation to preventpreventable conditions? 

The Prevention 1stresearch paper by La Trobe University in 2017 estimates that Australia spends about $2 billion on prevention each year, or $89 per person, which is lower than many other OECD countries.

Prevention could be the ‘cheaper’ alternative

On a personal front, my mum recently underwent spine fusion surgery as result of nerve compression from a disc protrusion. The entire procedure and hospitalisation cost almost $15,000!  

That figure doesn’t take into account the price my mum paid in constant physical pain, muscle loss (due to inactivity as a result of pain), social isolation (she couldn’t go out because of back pain), lost independence (she couldn’t walk for more than 1km), and lost productivity (she had to take time off work for the surgery and recovery).

I couldn’t help to wonder that this could’ve been prevented if mum had done Pilates a few years ago.  Lower back pain was often connected with weak core, inactive glutes, and tightness in the hips.  All of which are addressed in Pilates.  And $15,000 could buy a lot of Pilates classes!

How does exercise prevent diseases?

Extensive research in the US and the UK help to explain the link between exercise and prevention of illnesses.  

Heart disease and stroke.  Physical activity can help prevent heart disease and stroke by strengthening your heart muscle, lowering blood pressure, raising the good cholesterol (HDL) and lowering the bad cholesterol (LDL), and increasing your heart’s working capacity.

Diabetes. Regular exercise can help manage your blood sugar level more effectively, and lower your body fat.

Back pain. Regular low-impact exercises, such as Pilates, can strengthen your back and improve muscle function.  Core strengthening exercises (think your abdominal and back muscles) can help reduce symptoms by strengthening the muscles around your spine.

Arthritis. Exercise can help reduce pain, maintain muscle strength in affected joints and reduce joint stiffness, improving the mobility of arthritis sufferers.

Dementia. Exercise can improve cognition in people with dementia.  People who are generally active has a lower risk of dementia and cognitive impairment.

What’s your take-away from all of this?

An extensive review from the University of East Anglia reviewed 40 papers covering the international research published between 2006 and 2010, concludes that –

– apart from not smoking, being physically active is the most powerful lifestyle choice any individual can make to improve their health.

So, are you ready to move more?

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