Monday, March 22, 2010

The Most Potent Prescription (Inadequately Filled in Americans)

The Most Potent Prescription Inadequately Filled in Americans:

Gary Westlund, American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialist

We’re hearing and reading every day about prescription drugs and health care challenges in America. What we’re hearing and reading about prescription drugs includes their high cost to consumers, to insurance companies and HMO’s, to the government and taxpayers, and that not everyone who may benefit from a prescription drug is getting their prescription filled.

What we hear less frequently, but is important to know, is that not every drug is effective in everyone’s experience who uses them. That’s right. Prescription drugs are often effective for only 30-70% of patients who use them, regardless of their cost.

And, sometimes we’re reminded that prescription drugs often have unintended ill side effects in the patients who use them. In rare cases, those ill effects kill.

Yet, on balance we’re much, much better served by having the prescription drugs than not having them. Otherwise we wouldn’t be so concerned about their cost or how to get more of them. Modern pharmacology has improved the quality of many, many lives.

Take the drugs your doctor prescribes for your special health needs. But, don’t neglect the growing medical recommendation to fill your exercise prescription, your Rx Exercise. There is no prescription drug that offers the potency of exercise to keep us healthy, reduce or eliminate serious disease risks, and even help manage some chronic diseases.

Many drug prescriptions would never even have been needed for individuals if only they had first and regularly filled their own exercise prescription. Many drugs for a variety of “lifestyle” diseases would not be necessary if our behaviors had kept us healthy and fit.

Many individuals have reduced or eliminated their drug prescription dependency by changing their lifestyles[1].

Healthful lifestyle requirements include (1) stress management, (2) exercising and (3) a balanced, nutritious diet.

So what is this about exercise as a prescription? Rx Exercise?!

Yes, exercise is an old, old prescription for health maintenance. The exercise prescription is as old as the ancient Greeks. This knowledge about exercise as a prescription for good health was largely lost until the last century.

But, since about the middle of the last century, scientific studies and knowledge about the benefits of exercise was renewed and greatly enlarged.

Today we know that exercise may be the most potent prescription we can each fill every day.

The exercise prescription is more generally powerful and effective for good health than any prescription drug.

“If I told you that I had a formula that would help you live longer, avoid-and even cure-some diseases, relieve stress, and make you stronger with virtually no bad side effects, you’d probably be willing to pay a lot of money for it…what if I told you it was free?...The truth is, I do have a formula like that…the formula is physical activity-simple exercise”[2]

What is the Rx Exercise formula that will help most of us enjoy better health, disease reduction and even some better disease management? At least 30 minutes of moderately vigorous activity (like brisk walking), at least three times per week will help begin delivering many of the benefits mentioned in this article.

What do we know about the benefits of adequately filling the Rx Exercise?

While we cannot say that someone who fills their exercise prescription will definitely live longer, we can almost certainly say that they will live better. This is what we refer to as “Quality of Life” issues.

Here’s a partial list of observed and reported improvements among regular exercisers’ Quality of Life:
Greater sense of psychological well-being
Enhanced mood
Mental stress management
Anxiety reduction
Feeling more energetic
Greater productivity
Improved relationships
Better sleep quality
Improved self-esteem
Improved body image

Beyond QOL benefits, here are the commonly observed improvements in the physical condition for those who fill their exercise prescription.
1. Improved cardio-vascular fitness – better heart/lung function
2. Improved muscular strength and endurance
3. Improved fat to lean body mass ratio (Body Mass Index-BMI)
4. Improved bone density
5. Improved blood lipid profile

What about preventing serious diseases by filling one’s Rx Exercise?
Here’s a partial list of scientifically demonstrated benefits of adequately filling our Rx Exercise in preventing a variety of serious disease risks:
1. Coronary heart disease
2. Colon cancer
3. Type 2 Diabetes (Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus - NIDDM)
4. Osteoporosis
5. High Blood Pressure
6. Obesity
7. Depression alleviation/prevention

And, it is in just the last few decades that we have begun to observe and learn about the therapeutic benefits of an Rx Exercise appropriate to those already diagnosed with challenging diseases. Here’s a partial list of those benefits to special populations of filling their own Rx Exercise to help better manage their disease:
1. Heart Disease
3. Improved Quality of Life for those living with or beyond:
a. Arthritis
b. Asthma
c. Cancer
d. Diabetes (Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus – IDDM & NIDDM)
e. High blood pressure

Lastly, aging itself is a passage in life with a wide variety of increasing challenges: physical, emotional-psychological, and social. We now refer to aging as a choice between “Usual Aging” and “Successful Aging”.

The most important part of aging is internal, not external. Most of us only see and “treat” the external signs of aging, and miss the most potent age-slowing choices.

Usual aging is what we usually see among our family and friends as they move through the decades of aging beyond age 30, into the 40s, the 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond. Usual agers tend to be focused on the external “therapies” of attempts at appearing more youthful.

Successful agers are focused on their inner person, both physiologically and psychologically/emotionally.

Successful aging is what we witness in those who are more than just apparently younger than their years. Through exercise and training, successful agers actually have maintained very important physiological functions that allow them to function at even age 70 as well as many who don’t exercise who are only 40. They actually have cells that are livelier, energy-producing, and healthier than the usual agers. This doesn’t happen by accident, but by choice.

Some of these physiological functions, like VO2Max (the maximum oxygen that one’s body can utilize during physical work or exercise), reflect in very significant ways just how alive and youthfully vigorous we are decline by about 2% per year after about age 30 in the sedentary population. But, VO2Max and other functions have been observed to decline by only ½% per year after age 30 among those who regularly and effectively fill their Rx Exercise[3].

We each have a choice, a challenge, to live as well as possible. We can choose to age usually or we can choose to fill our Rx Exercise, staying vigorous and functioning at a higher level well into advanced years of life, avoiding many serious diseases, and better managing any bad diagnoses, like arthritis, that may come along.

So, what is the Rx Exercise good for?
It’s good for (1) staying healthy, (2) reducing the risks of a variety of serious diseases, and even for (3) better and more happily managing a variety of challenging chronic diseases.

Have you filled your Rx Exercise today?

Consult your physician before beginning or increasing your own Rx Exercise activities.

And, consult your physician before ending or stopping your Rx Exercise regimen. Quitting exercise is dangerous to your health.

Note: As many as 60-70% of Americans are not filling their Rx Exercise adequately. It’s been estimated that as much as half our medical care dollars are spent on avoidable “lifestyle” diseases. (Lifestyle diseases, including heart disease and NIIDDM, are those highly related to the risks of physical inactivity, smoking, and poor dietary behaviors[4].)

Other Notes:
Physical Inactivity and Poor Diet Growing Threat to Americans' HealthDeaths in the U.S. due to poor diet and physical inactivity rose by 33 percent over the past decade. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that poor diet and physical inactivity may soon overtake tobacco as the leading preventable cause of death.Source: "Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000" released in 2004 by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

[1] Researcher Stephen Turner, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, reports, "Of course, if more people lost weight with diet and exercise, their blood pressure would drop, their lipids would improve, and their risk of diabetes would decrease without the need for this type of (cholesterol lowering) drug," From WebMD article of June 28, 2004.

[2] _The Exercise-Health Connection_ page 3 by David C. Neiman, DrPH
[3] Dare to Be 100 by Dr Walter Bortz
[4] Dr Walter Bortz in his video “Health Wealth: Spending Health Dollars Wisely”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Join CC RxExercise Ambassador Team to Dublin Marathon

Join Charities Challenge RxExercise Ambassadors A-Team today and travel team expenses paid to the Dublin Marathon, Oct 25, 2010!

Primary A-Team Travel Dates to Ireland Oct 21-27.

Join CC’s Dublin A-Team between March 17-31, 2010 for a
Lucky $500 Fast Start to Travel Team Expenses paid to Dublin!

(Dublin Castle, Photo by GaryWestlund/CharitiesChallenge)
*Early Bird Special! To help get the Dublin Team moving forward, A St Patrick’s Day Irish Blessing…
Join the Dublin A-Team starting on St Patrick’s Day, Wednesday, March 17, through March 31, 2010, and receive a $500 Early Bird CC reduction in your fundraising goal, leaving only $3000 to go after joining the Team with your $150 A-Team Member registration fee. (CC will provide training & fundraising leadership for success!)

To join CC’s Dublin A-Team today by calling
Certified Coach Gary Westlund 612-245-9160 or go to

We “CC A-Team Dublin Early Birds” will begin gathering together @ 6 PM on Wednesday’s, March 17, 24, and 31, at Como Lake, St Paul, MN:
1. Fun CC Team Training Times (open to all CC Members)
2. Happy Dublin A-Team Travel Planning
3. Pleasant A-Team Post-training social time after 7 PM

(Above: Glendaloch, near Dublin,
Below, Cliffs of Moher, West of Ireland;
Photos by Gary Westlund/Charities Challenge)
CC Coach Gary Westlund has coached hundreds, helped with fundraising, and traveled and travel
planned, for 5 Charities Teams to the Dublin Marathon and excursions throughout Ireland in the past 10 years, and happily looks forward to introducing many more RxExercise Ambassadors to beautiful Ireland.

Happy St Patrick's Day and Claddaugh Ring Irish Traditions: Friendship-Love-Loyalty!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 14, 2010 - St Patricks Irish Traditions 5k

CC's 2nd Annual St Patrick’s Irish Traditions 5k, “Celebrating Active Friendship-Love-Loyalty” at Como Lake, St Paul, MN, Sunday, March 14, tripled in size and success.

Our 2010 St Pat's 5k was the 3rd of 11 Holiday Run Events presented by Charities Challenge in 2010, where we celebrate the Power of RxExercise to improve lives and even relationships.

Race results, which will be kept at CC’s web site, are available at

To find St Patrick’s Irish Traditions 5k musical slideshow go to

Notice the Holiday Run theme repeatedly seen in the slideshow: “Miles o’ Smiles”, because RxExercise does improve lives and relationships!

I was particularly cheered by the images I saw, and some that I was lucky to capture with my camera, of families and friends sharing their Friendship-Love-Loyalty, the Irish Traditions of the Claddagh Ring, ‘round Como Lake.

I so enjoy seeing so many active, loving family-friends sharing happy-healthy walking/running activity on and around special Holidays, smiling, laughing, dancing, singing and hugging, because of shared RxExercise.

Thanks to all the CC Race Event Workers (CCREW) volunteers who make CC Event so enjoyable for so many others:
Jeanne DeMartino, Don Soule, Mary Pat Flynn, Laura Westlund, Kent Spellman, Mary Lunzer, Karen Kinnear, Bridget McClatchey, Mary Riches, Jason Denen, Amy Kohout, Rick Recker, Scott Beesley, and racer-turned-course-marshal, Andrew Hanselman. GO CCREW!

Thanks, again, to 2010 Holiday Run Series KIND Sponsors, David & Pam Glass of Black Bear Crossings Café , and the California Dried Plum Board.

Additional thanks to Bronze Level Sponsor financially supporting the event, Ann Larkin, Xango Independent Distributor
(Ann is a happy runner who ran the 2002 Dublin Marathon as part of a charity team coached by CC Coaches Gary & Jeanne!)

Thank you to music-man Sishir Chang of The Serfs for live music, and graphic artist/illustrator Laura Westlund for her lovely Irish Traditions honoring shirt logo design.

And, thanks to professional timer/scorer/records-keeper, Josh Gerber of and pro-announcer, Gaylen Morse of Morsound, for making our St Pat’s 5k a classy, first-class racing experience for over 300 participants. 20% of the participants were first-time racers who we hope will keep up all those happy steps, partly as a consequence of how they enjoyed Sunday’s experiences.

Next up, please join us for
1. The 3rd Annual "Easter Sunday – Rise ‘n’ Shine 5k" on Sunday, April 4, at Como Lake, the 4th of 11 Holiday Run Events.
2. The 5th Annual Challenge Obesity 5k - Celebrating Effective RxExercise, and the RRCA MN State 5k Championship

Keep GOING IRISH…All the way to Dublin, Ireland in October!
Keep walking & running, and stay motivated by joining our RxExercise Ambassador Team to the 2010 Dublin Marathon, taking advantage by tomorrow, Wednesday, March 17, St Patrick’s Day, with the St Patrick’s Irish Blessing special “Fast Start” special promotion.

Join the CC Dublin Team by tomorrow and receive a $500 credit toward your fundraising goal of $3750 total needed to travel expenses-paid

Charities Challenge will help Dublin Team Members achieve both the training and CC fundraising goals to allow each RxExercise Ambassador’s CC Team Member’s expenses-paid travel to a grand finish line in Dublin. I’ve coached hundreds of others to 5 Dublin Marathons, and I’m eager to introduce many more to Ireland’s grandest marathon experience. Join CC’s Dublin Team now and run Ireland in October, 2010!
Keep up your daily RxExercise, live well, and meet life's challenges with more strength and happiness.