Movement is Medicine: The Link Between Chronic Disease and Exercise

It’s natural for people to worry about chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, which rank as the top three leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. While medicine has made great progress in treating these conditions, there’s universal agreement that preventing chronic diseases altogether is far preferable. The encouraging news is that exercise can help prevent many chronic conditions. The preventive effect is so powerful that exercise is considered a “polypill,” able to mimic the effects of prescription drugs. Learn more about chronic disease and why exercise is a potent preventive measure. 

Chronic Disease: A Growing Concern 

Chronic diseases are long-term conditions that typically require ongoing medical attention, including regular checkups, monitoring, medication, or other forms of treatment. Chronic diseases impact a staggering number of people. Nearly 60% of adult Americans are living with a chronic disease such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. 40% of adults have two or more chronic conditions. 

Chronic diseases include coronary heart disease (atherosclerosis, heart failure, hypertension, and stroke), obesity, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers, osteoporosis, and sarcopenia (frailty as a result of weak muscles.) Chronic diseases are among the leading causes of death in the United States, with heart disease and cancer accounting for around 38% of all fatalities.

A Reliance on Medications

For many people, managing chronic or long-term conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease involves a daily regimen of prescription medications. A recent poll revealed that 70% of adults take at least one prescription medication daily, with 27% relying on four or more. 

The Link Between Inactivity and Chronic Disease 

Research shows that insufficient physical activity is linked to several chronic health issues, including cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke), Type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers such as breast, colon, and uterine. Physical inactivity increases the incidence of at least 17 unhealthy conditions, most of which are chronic diseases or considered risk factors for chronic disease.

Preventive measures are critical to lower the risk of developing serious health issues. Abstaining from smoking and excessive alcohol use, maintaining a healthy diet and weight, getting enough sleep, and undergoing regular health screenings all play a role in disease prevention.

The Preventive Power of Physical Activity

The encouraging news is that maintaining an active lifestyle can substantially reduce the risk of developing many chronic diseases. Specifically, exercise can:

  • Help regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. 
  • Raise “good” cholesterol and lower “bad” cholesterol.
  • Reduce the risk for heart disease and nerve damage (often problems for people with diabetes.)
  • Lower the risk of developing certain cancers, including breast, colon, and uterine cancer. 

Getting the recommended amount of physical activity, 75 -150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, and twice-weekly strength-training activities are essential for overall health. Regular exercise not only helps reduce chronic disease risk, but also improves heart health, aids in weight management, and enhances mental well-being, all of which contribute to a longer, healthier life. 

Exercise as a “Polypill” 

The preventive benefits of exercise are so profound that it’s described as a “polypill” which is defined as a single medication combining multiple treatments for chronic conditions. Research indicates that exercise may prevent and/or treat almost every chronic disease, rivaling the efficacy of commonly prescribed drugs. 

Furthermore, exercise offers benefits across multiple body systems without the side effects often associated with medications at a much lower cost. And while exercise doesn’t guarantee complete disease prevention, research shows it can be a powerful tool to reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Aaptiv as a Tool to Help Reduce Disease Risk

Aaptiv offers an all-in-one wellness solution that includes personalized workout plans, access to a network of 19,000+ national and local gyms, and over 9,500+ on-demand fitness and mindfulness classes. With PEAR’s Training Intelligence, Aaptiv’s AI coaching helps users stay motivated and engaged with their exercise routine. As users progress through their workouts, it adapts to their performance in real-time, providing feedback and adjustments to ensure they are getting the most out of their workout. This hyper-personalized approach can help anyone achieve their fitness goals and improve their overall health and well-being.


Stay Informed

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Share this post

More Blog Posts

anti-obesity drugs

Will Anti-Obesity Drugs Get More People to Exercise?

Until recently, the recipe for weight loss focused almost exclusively ...
Read More
lifestyle change, AI

Tech-Driven Lifestyle Change: Can AI Help Overcome Barriers to Exercise?

Getting people to change their behavior is hard. Just ask ...
Read More
postpartum program

Running Strong: New Postpartum Program Reshapes Fitness for Military Moms

For new military mothers, progressing from walking to running is ...
Read More
postpartum health fit warrior mom

Fit for Duty: Revolutionizing Postpartum Fitness for Military Moms

Having a baby is a life-changing event for anyone. But ...
Read More
SHIELD method

How to Create a SHIELD Against Cognitive Decline

Eat more blueberries or dark chocolate. Try fish oil supplements. ...
Read More
running from cognitive decline

Running From Cognitive Decline

There is no question that exercise provides tremendous benefits. It ...
Read More