How exercise can cure just about anything
From his time at the University of Missouri Medical School, as a resident at Tufts University and then as a sports medicine fellow at Harvard University, to his tenure as a sports medicine physician at New York City's Hospital for Special Surgery, Dr. Jordan Metzl came to one conclusion: "There is no drug that works for everything like exercise does. It impacts almost every disease we have, and it works across the entire spectrum of the human body."
Since 1993, Metzl has completed 30 marathons and 11 Ironman triathlons. Exercise helped him feel better as he went through his career as a doctor, and he wanted to use it to help patients affected by everything from anxiety to cancer. He started digging through the scientific literature to look for studies that might help him offer exercise prescriptions. "I started with the brain and I went down the human body and looked at exercise as the treatment for depression, for anxiety, for sleep problems, for heart disease, for erectile dysfunction, for certain types of cancer," says Metzl. "I gathered the scientific evidence and I asked, How do you start somebody on an exercise plan and how do you tell them what they can and can't do?"
The result is 'The Exercise Cure,' a 298-page book packed with scientific evidence on the benefits of exercise and fitness plans for preventing and treating everything from lower back pain, to high blood pressure, to depression. For each condition, Metzl breaks down the symptoms, describes what's going on physiologically, offers up warnings about when to call a doctor, and gives practical advice in the form of an exercise prescription. "Readers can learn how to set up fitness programs for disease treatment and prevention, which I think is different than any book that's ever been done," says Metzl.
The exercise plans are quick and to the point and function as primers, not tomes. Every one is different, and the best workouts for the prevention and treatment of diseases should be tailored to individuals with the help of a sports medicine doctor. Exercise can't take the place of Western medicine. Still, what Metzl has put together is a quick and valuable resource. "We spend 17 percent of our GDP, $2.7 billion on health care, and most of that is spent on treating disease," says Metzl. "But there's great data on preventing many of the chronic diseases we have, and treating some diseases, with exercise. There's nothing that's quite as good, and I just want everybody to take this drug."