Didn't exercise this week? You're not just lazy, you have a medical condition, argues one physiologist in the Journal of Physiology. Michael Joyner thinks it's time doctors made a serious push against "deconditioning," he tells NPR's Shots blog. The sedentary lives many of us lead are a relatively new phenomenon, and one that takes a toll on public health, says Joyner. The "entire medical research industrial complex" is focused, profitably, on treating the ill effects, but doctors and insurers are not doing enough to get people off the couch in the first place.
Doctors are happy to write prescriptions for pills to treat, say, heart disease, so why not prescriptions for exercise, too? Joyner points to what he sees as two triumphs in public health last century: better traffic safety, including seat belts and drunk-driving laws, and the decline in smoking rates. Both were the result of the medical community influencing public opinion. He thinks the same can happen with exercise. Doctors can push, and communities can make it easier with such things as bike lanes and parks.