Exercise is medicine. In fact, there are claims exercise is “the cheapest, most accessible medicine available”.
Studies have found that exercise is just as effective as prescription medication for treating certain chronic diseases. Given that almost half of all Australians have a chronic disease, this cost-effective treatment should play an essential role in improving the health of all Australians. So why, when we live in a beautiful country that beckons us to go outside and be active, are half of all Australians failing to meet physical activity guidelines? On paper, exercise is a wonder drug but can it really change lives?
Meet Matt, a 50-year-old Brisbanite, successful business owner and proud father of two. The last 10 years has seen him plagued by back pain after suffering an injury whilst heavy lifting. Matt’s back pain had gradually increased in severity over the last decade, reaching a point where lifting 3-4 kg could leave him unable to move for the next few days. This chronic pain was not only affecting his work life and his business, but his family life too.
Matt sought help from medical professionals; however, he only ever experienced temporary pain relief.. The debilitating pain caused him to become so inactive that he began to gain weight and faced an increased risk of chronic disease. In order to combat his growing number of health concerns, Matt decided to turn to exercise.
Matt’s journey to recovery started with a visit to an accredited exercise physiologist (AEP). An AEP is a university qualified, allied health professional who assesses, clinically prescribes and evaluates safe and effective exercise interventions. In this case, a musculoskeletal assessment found impairments in his mobility, abdominal and leg strength, as well as general deconditioning from living a sedentary lifestyle. Focusing on exercise as his treatment, Matt set himself the goal to reduce his back pain and use of pain medication. Ultimately, he wanted to return to the active lifestyle he once had.
With the help of the AEP, an exercise plan focusing on Matt’s individual goals was formulated. It started with basic mobility, body weight functional exercises and a walking plan in short 15-minute increments. Matt found it tough to begin with, but he persisted and began ticking off his short-term goals one by one. Fast forward, and he can quite proudly say he is now completing an hourly strength and conditioning program and a 30-minute cardiovascular program, 3 times a week. Whilst he is still working towards the recommended guidelines for physical activity, Matt is no longer worried about when the next acute episode of back pain will pop up nor is he planning his life around his pain. So, does exercise really change lives? It’s a resounding yes from Matt.
Written by Alice Hyslop BExSci, BPhty (Hons) | Allsports Indooroopilly
 Australia Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). Burden of Disease. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/health-conditions-disability-deaths/burden-of-disease/overview
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 Australia Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). Chronic Disease. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/health-conditions-disability-deaths/chronic-disease/overview
 Australia Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). Physical Activity. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/behaviours-risk-factors/physical-activity/overview
 ESSA. (2021) What is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist? Available from: https://www.essa.org.au/Public/Consumer_Information/What_is_an_Accredited_Exercise_Physiologist_.aspx?WebsiteKey=b4460de9-2eb5-46f1-aeaa-3795ae70c687