Exercise can save you from needing a bunch of pills

Why do exercising people in photos always look so happy?

Why do exercising people in photos always look so happy?

In classic #slatepitch fashion, Emily Oster argues that calls for people to exercise to improve their health ignore the problem that most of us find exercise unpleasant. As an economist, she feels that public policy should factor in the costs of exercise, not just in gym memberships but in time that we could spend on more enjoyable activities.

She’s responding to media coverage of a recent meta-analysis showing that exercise and drug treatments are equally effective for preventing diabetes or heart attacks. Exercise was more effective than drugs for stroke patients, but less effective for patients with heart failure.

The Slate headline is golden clickbait (“Taking a Pill While Watching TV Just as Good as Exercise, Study Finds”). I fell for it, even though I’d already seen the study. But it’s wrong in one important way: no single pill can substitute for the broad benefits of exercise. Instead we’re talking about different medications to prevent or treat heart attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and so on. Most of the seniors I know are taking handfuls of pills every day. Not to mention that exercise lowers the risk of getting some diseases of aging that can’t be cured, like Alzheimer’s disease. There’s no pill for that.

4 thoughts on “Exercise can save you from needing a bunch of pills

  1. I crave exercise, even when I was BMI = 34, I could never quite be sedentary. Granted, going to the gym sometimes sucks, even though I crave it, but who could be against taking a walk on a nice day, or a bike ride? I feel like crap if I don’t get at least a minimal amount of exercise, plus I regain.

  2. Exercise, or more accurately, movement is what we are born with. The newborn would fester and die if it did not ON ITS OWN had found out that movement is something that is best described by Brian Pronger of U of Toronto, Canada, authoor of Body Fascism: Movement desire is a power in and of itself, effectively prior to function, morality or any other cultural references.” (p.76)

    So I have never been overweight and fit enough to enjoy life’s vigorous pursuits — including tobogganing (sliding downhill face-forward for last three winters as a Septuagenarian, yes! I also also walk everyday, now entirely for fun, salivating about it much before lacing up my shoes.

    I also enjoy food of all kinds but I rarely feel need to stuff. On occasional times I do, my body tells me I’m not yet hungry so I don’t eat and pursue other interesting things in life. There’s a lot in the realm of activities requiring mentally challenging pleasures. I miss most is human contact as much talk is hijacked by shallow and boring dialogue even when people gather to discuss serious matter.

    Excess food consumption and excessive rest are the “drugs” of the affluent societies — in the line of smoking, slcohol and illicit drugs that humanity in preprosperous societies have always used to deal with the “human predicament.”

  3. How pathetic — next we’ll be advised to have sex to get better sleep and lower anxiety levels, and so forth. When sex, playful exertion, or friendships are reduced to their additional benefits, we sully and slander the most beautiful in life with a perspective that is shallow if not stultifying the human part of being a homo sapien. As the author Brian Pronger in his book, Body Fascism reminds us, the desire to move is prior to any function, morality or cultural preference.

    You will know you LIKE physical activity when a bus stops by and you ignore because walking is more interesting, more enjoyable.

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