Exercise Is Medicine

You know you need to get in shape, but you can’t get motivated. Don’t you wish your doctor could write you a prescription to get healthy?

That’s exactly what the Community Care Clinic is doing through its Exercise is Medicine program.

Exercise is Medicine is a global health initiative managed by the American College of Sports Medicine, and the clinic is serving as a pilot site for Rowan County.

“We have a philosophy of caring for the whole patient,” says Executive Director Krista Woolly. “We want physical activity to be an integral part of the care we provide.”

To execute the program, the clinic is partnering with Alyssa Smith, executive director of Healthy Rowan.

“We know that exercise can help with the treatment and management of 40 common chronic health conditions,” she says. “But people are limited by motivation, transportation, and access to resources.”

They might also be intimidated by national exercise guidelines that recommend 150 minutes of moderate activity each week.

But Dr. Amy Wilson, the clinic’s medical director, assesses patients and gradually helps them increase their exercise levels.

“It’s really exciting that part of my mission is to incorporate a healthy lifestyle into overall health,” she says. “You have to meet people where they are.”

Even exercising 10 minutes at a time, three days a week, helps form a healthy habit, Smith says.

Who doesn’t have 10 minutes during the day to exercise?

That could include walking, running, Zumba, water aerobics, chair exercises, yoga and doing exercise videos at home, she says. “You don’t have to go to a gym to work out. 

By September 2018, 196 patients in the clinic had been assessed.

“This is an evidence-based, interventional program,” Woolly says. “When we see patients, we take four vital signs, and we call exercise the fifth vital sign.”

Woolly says that because the clinic is part of a pilot program, the hope is that all Novant physicians will eventually participate in Exercise is Medicine.

To support healthy behavioral changes, the clinic offers weekly cooking demonstrations with Greg Stewart, lifestyle coach with Cabarrus Health Alliance. Healthy and affordable foods created so far have included lentil soup, blueberry smoothies, and black bean quesadillas. Recipes for these dishes are shared with patients are they are encouraged to make the healthy food at home for their families.