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Exercise: The Great Medicine

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Adrian Palmer,

September 22, 2020.


The Top Killers - Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDS)

Many persons protect their lives from harm, threat or death, especially with the rise in crime and violence. Ironically, statistics (WHO, 2014) shows that only 11% of deaths in Trinidad and Tobago are caused by injuries (to include violence and road accidents). Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDS) are responsible for most deaths in the country (80%). But, are we equally doing enough to protect our lives from NCDs?

Common examples of NCDs are heart diseases, diabetes, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and mental disorders. NCDs are mostly lifestyle related and are preventable. This sadly suggest that our lifestyle has a far greater chance of killing us than violence or injuries.

Risk Factors for NCDs

The main risk factors are tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, poor nutrition/eating habits, social determinants (for e.g. where you live and resources you have available could impact your health) and physical Inactivity. SDAs should have the lowest risk.

Physical Inactivity

Physical inactivity and living a sedentary lifestyle simply mean we are not moving enough. When a person does not meet the weekly recommended amounts of physical activity, they are physically inactive. Physical Inactivity is the fourth (4th) leading risk factor for death worldwide. Globally 25% of adults and 80% of adolescents are physically inactive.

Physical Activity (PA) & Exercise: The Movement Medicine

Physical activities involve exercising, walking, raking the yard, playing sports, hiking etc. Exercise and physical activity have many health benefits, experts call it "medicine". These benefits include, preventing poor health, reducing premature death, delaying need for care in older adults, enhancing quality of life and mental health. More physically active children have better chances of being healthier adults.

Physical Activity Guidelines (PA)- Children and Teens (5 - 18 years)

Children and adolescents should aim to engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity throughout the day. These activities should make them breath faster and feel warmer. Examples of appropriate PA are playing, running/walking, swimming, skipping, climbing, sports, PE, dancing, cycling, working out etc.

Please encourage children to sit and lie around less and move more. Children meeting these guidelines had better confidence and social skills, better coordination, stronger muscles and bones, improved health and fitness, healthier weight, improved sleep, concentration and learning.

Activity (PA) Guidelines- Adults (18-65 years) and Older Adults (65+ years)

Adults are encouraged to attain the following number of minutes of PA PER WEEK. 75 minutes of vigorous intensity (meaning during the activity you are breathing fast or have difficulty talking) OR 150 minutes of moderate intensity (breathing is increased but you are able to talk) OR a combination of both. Adults should aim to spend less time sitting or lying around the tv, sofa and computer.

Examples of vigorous activities are like running, playing sports, stair climbing. Moderate intensity activities are like walking, cycling and swimming. Physical activities that build strength are important such as gym, working out, or even carrying bags (e.g. grocery bags). More importantly for older adults, PA that improves balance helps to prevent falls, examples are dancing, bowling, marching on the spot, single leg stance/balance and other balance exercises.

Exercise, The Good Free Medicine

Exercise and PA helps adults to improve their health and sleep, maintain a healthy weight, manage their stress and improve their quality of life. NCDs cause 80% of death in Trinidad and Tobago and worldwide. Exercise and increased PA can actually cause us to decrease our chances of getting most common NCDs. Exercise and PA decreases our chances of Type 2 diabetes (-40%), Cardiovascular diseases (-35%, including hypertension, heart disease, stroke), Cancers (-20% Colon and breast), joints and back pains (-25%) and falls, depression and dementia (-30%).

God designed that the living machinery should be in daily activity; for in this activity or motion is its preserving power. – The Health Reformer, May 1, 1873


Persons not meeting these guidelines are said to be physically inactive and are at risk for poor health and NCDs. Regular physical activity as a part of our daily routines throughout our lives enables us to live better and longer. However, persons with serious medical complications should consult a health care professional before increasing their PA levels.

Adrian Palmer, PT, BScPT, PAPHS

Clinic Director, Arukah Physio + Ltd.
Registered Physical Therapist (RPT)
ACSM/NPAS Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist
Tel: 868-314-3639

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