“Lack of Exercise” Could Be a Classified Medical Condition

Diabetes, high blood pressure, and joint pain are just a few characteristics of obesity. What if the lack of exercise were treated as a medical condition? Would obesity numbers go down? Mayo Clinic physiologist Michael Joyner, MD, argues that it should be and they would.

“I would argue that physical inactivity is the root cause of many of the common problems that we have,” Dr. Joyner says. “If we were to medicalize it, we could then develop a way—just like we’ve done for addiction, cigarettes, and other things—to give people treatments, and lifelong treatments, that focus on behavioral modifications and physical activity. And then we can take public health measures, like we did for smoking, drunk driving, and other things, to limit physical inactivity and promote physical activity.”

If physical inactivity were treated as a medical condition itself rather than simply a cause or byproduct of other medical conditions, physicians may become more aware of the value of prescribing supported exercise, and more formal rehabilitation programs that include cognitive and behavioral therapy would develop, Dr. Joyner says.

For the sedentary, start slowly and progressively. Even walking ten minutes three times a day can get you closer to better health.