Betsy Meyer

It’s true. Doctors in the UK, USA, Canada, Sweden and other countries have begun “prescribing” walking as a cure and a preventative for many diseases. This is part of a worldwide movement called Exercise is Medicine. But it’s not new.

A bit of medical history here, Hippocrates (c. 460 to 370 BC) was a Greek physician often referred to as the “Father of Western Medicine,” and is credited with creating the Hippocratic Oath and also with saying “Walking is the best medicine.” He also said “if we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” This philosophy continued well into the 1800s. One physician, J. William White, a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in 1887: ‘‘Let it be understood that the main object and idea of exercise is the acquirement or preservation of health; … that it can be prescribed on as rational a basis … as any of the drugs of the pharmacopeia.” In 1769, in Scottish physician William Buchan’s highly popular Domestic Medicine, he suggested that ‘‘of all the causes which conspire to render the life of man short and miserable, none have greater influence than the want of proper Exercise.”

By the early 1900s, the field of medicine in the United States began to undergo significant changes. New drugs cured diseases and new machines like x-rays improved diagnoses. Priority was given to fighting infectious diseases and to finding effective vaccines. In medical schools the curriculum became more scientific and greater emphasis was placed on cure rather than prevention. Exercise began to lose the attention previously supported by many physicians.

Present Day: In a February 2018 report The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that physical inactivity is the fourth leading causes of death in the world today. The benefits of physical activity on various health issues including vascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, and mental health are now undisputed. Exercise, such as walking, also reduces the incidence of certain cancers — colon cancer especially with other cancers such as breast, prostate, and lung following close behind. Exercise is Medicine was established in 2007 to encourage primary care physicians to include physical activity when designing treatment plans. Ranit Mishori, a professor of family medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine, influenced by this program describes his practice of “prescribing” walking to his patients in a March 10, 2018 Washington Post article. He actually hands them a prescription form with “doctor’s order” written on it and writes out the “dosages” based on each patient’s age and medical condition.

So, why not beat your doctor to the punch and begin your own health program by incorporating more walking into your daily life.

Please join us at the Healthy Adams County Wednesday evening walks or the Memorial Day Come Walk With Me/Free 5K Event at the Wyndham Gateway. For details visit

Betsy Meyer is a member of the Community Wellness Connection committee and also Healthy Adams County Physical Fitness Task Force.

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