So What is Medical Exercise & Why is it Important For Me?

We all know we need to exercise more, but everyone has different ideas about what actually counts as exercise. Most of us don’t know how to exercise effectively, in a way that we’re actually improving our fitness or losing weight. I’m hoping this article will begin to explain the idea of ‘Medical Exercise’ and how it can improve the efficiency of your exercise.

What Counts as Exercise?

Before we start talking about exercise, we need to speak briefly about Physical Activity. Physical activity includes all the bodily movements you perform throughout your day like walking to your car or lifting the groceries. Some people perform a lot of physical activity in their day whereas others perform very little.

Exercise, on the other hand, is just one form of physical activity. Exercise is planned, structured and repetitive (Public Health Reports, 1985). You do exercise deliberately, not by accident. Going out for a walk, playing a sport or lifting weights all count as exercise. Walking up the stairs to get your phone, however tired you might feel afterward, doesn’t count.

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How is Exercise a Medicine?

Exercise is a medicine because it can treat and prevent illness, injury or disease. Exercises which involve repetitive contact with the ground (like running, walking, step-ups and jumping) can help prevent Osteoporosis – a disease in which your bones become fragile and weakened. Performing regular exercises that stretch your shoulder joint can help prevent Frozen Shoulder, which is a painful injury characterised by gradually decreasing range of motion in your shoulder joint.

Performing exercise with your whole body challenges your cardiovascular system to supply enough blood (which is carrying energy, oxygen and water among other things) to your entire body. Improving your fitness means that your body gets better at delivering these nutrients to your working muscles, and that your muscles get more efficient at using them to do work. Exercises that work your whole body include swimming, running, cross-trainers and my Aerobic Theraband Exercise classes. A fitter, more efficient cardiovascular system is less likely to experience a cardiac event, like a heart attack.

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What’s the Correct Dosage of this Exercise Medicine?

As with almost all forms of medication, different people require different dosages to experience the positive benefits. Our weight, muscle strength, exercise history, diet and metabolism all play a role in determining how much exercise you individually need to improve fitness and prevent illness, injury or disease. When deciding how much exercise you need, we need to consider two factors:

  1. How long (time) you should exercise.
  2. How hard (intensity) you should exercise.

Time is easily measured with a stopwatch. Intensity, however, is more difficult to measure. In my Individual Exercise Sessions, I measure exercise intensity by constantly monitoring my patient’s heart rate. I then steadily increase the intensity of the exercise until my patient’s heart rate reaches the agreed target amount, usually around 80% of their Estimated Maximum Heart Rate. Then we sustain that intensity for 25-30 minutes.

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Where can I get My Own Exercise Prescription?

As a medical exercise therapist (and a qualified physiotherapist), I specialise in offering fitness testing services to my patients. Depending on your physical ability, we carry out either a walking or a running fitness test on the treadmill with constant heart rate and oxygen level monitoring. I then assess the results, go through them with you step-by-step, and show you how hard you should be exercising to see the results you want, whatever those might be. This test is a great way to see a snapshot of your fitness level right now as well as measure your progress in improving your fitness over time. You can find out more information by calling me on PH: 0861546175 or emailing me on: I take appointments Monday to Saturday in my Blackglen Clinic, and I look forward to helping you feel better soon.

Seán Flynn

Senior Physiotherapist


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