Can exercise and healthful eating replace drugs and surgery?

by Taru Fisher on April 22, 2016

Tablet Medicine From BottleAs a professional in the healthcare world, I often hear about people choosing drugs and surgery over exercise and proper nutrition, even when exercise and healthful eating could solve the problem. I believe surgery and drugs have their place, but according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) “The causes (risk factors) of chronic diseases are well established and well known; a small set of common risk factors are responsible for most of the main chronic diseases.” These causes are the same for men and women and we can do something about them:

  • unhealthy diet,
  • physical inactivity,
  • tobacco use.

The “main chronic diseases” are defined as:

  • cardiovascular diseases, mainly heart diseases and stroke
  • cancer
  • chronic respiratory diseases
  • diabetes
  • others, such as mental disorders, vision and hearing impairment, oral diseases, bone and joint disorders and genetic disorders.

A story I hear all too often:
Just the other day, a friend reported to me that his girlfriend was told by her doctor that she had weak bones and needed to take a drug that would help prevent further weakening of her bones. She is very averse to taking medications but has decided to take this one.

I mentioned that strength training exercise would be an excellent alternative to the drug and she would be building her bone structure not just preventing further wasting. My friend said, “I really can’t see her doing any kind of exercise like that. She does walk for a half hour, three times a day, but that is the extent of her exercise.” I offered to talk to her but he didn’t think she would be interested.

I was distressed to hear this report. You don’t like taking drugs yet when there is a clear, safe alternative you don’t want to try it? Admittedly, I only talked to my friend not his girlfriend, yet sadly, I’d heard this story many times before.

The Four Tools for Self Care
Weight Training Indicates Get Fit And BodybuildingAccording to the CDC, chronic diseases are the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems. The key word here is: preventable. These diseases are preventable with the informed use of four tools:

  1. exercise,
  2. proper nutrition,
  3. stress taming and
  4. recovery (the right amount of sleep and the right amount of rest after intense exercise).

I consider these tools the foundation of self care and self care, the foundation of health care. Or in my opinion self care should be the foundation of health care. We already brush our teeth, wash our hands and take baths or showers. Exercise, healthful eating, stress reduction and sleep are just extensions of how we already take care of ourselves.

Your choice plays a big role in your health care and wellness
My friend’s girlfriend could choose to expand her exercise to include strength training. She could choose to learn more about alternatives for treating osteopenia and osteoporosis. But it sounds like she is choosing to take a drug and let it go at that.

I believe we no longer have to settle for drugs and surgery as the only options for health care. Each of us has the opportunity and the responsibility to take a more active role in our health care and the process can start simply with choosing to move our bodies more and choosing healthier foods to put in our bodies.

Visit our strength training page.

Image Attributions:
“Tablet Medicine From Bottle” Image courtesy of Keerati at
“Weight Training Indicates Get Fit And Bodybuilding” Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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