Doctors in the Canadian province of Quebec have added a new tool to their long list of prescribable remedies: They can now give prescriptions for exercise to patients. The doctors are seeking new ways of combatting the country’s huge obesity problem, one that is eating away at the country’s young and old in equal measure, that doesn’t require drugs.
Quebec’s over 8000 general practitioners will each get general prescription pads where they will give patients direct instructions on which exercise to do and for how long. The initiative, a program from the Quebec Federation of General Practitioners and the nonprofit organization Grand Defi Pierre Lavoie, seeks to encourage healthier living among the province’s old and young.
The unique pads will allow doctors to recommend which types of exercise to give patients in form of “exercise cubes.” The cubes are the measure of 15 minutes of physical activity. An average dose involves two cubes a day, amounting to half an hour’s exercise, five days a week.
According to Quebec doctors, the program will also help patients reduce their risk of contracting high blood pressure, stroke, cholesterol and higher risks of heart attack.
Dr. Mark Roper said, "It’s as powerful as some of the pills we give, and less side effects."
Patients get to choose their desired form of physical activity which may include swimming, cycling, walking and kayaking. The prescriptions will match the patients’ physical activity abilities, with regard to health and fitness level. All age groups will be subject to the exercise cubes prescription and in some schools in Quebec, the program is already active.
Doctors predict that in some cases, the exercise programs will take away the need for traditional medicines. Dr. Roper said, "We actually take them off medications because they’ve come down 20 lbs. (and) they don’t need their blood pressure pills.”
Quebec’s health ministry said researchers would follow the program for up to three years to monitor its results.
Montreal Heart Institute director of prevention Martin Juneau said, "Doctors are showing that they take this seriously. It's not just advice. This way, it's a medical prescription."
Canada’s obesity problem is worrying. One in four adults and one in 10 children are clinically obese. These are six million Canadians requiring clinical prescriptions to get rid of excess weight. Doctors have blamed the excess weight for various lifestyle diseases including type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis and cancer.
Exercise prescriptions are an ingenious way of curbing growing obesity figures while simultaneously warding off lifestyle diseases. The province of Quebec will see an increased uptake of physical activity among their people.