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Exercise, prescribed

Exercise-Rx was designed to increase physical activity in patients in Kingston and Amherstview.

What started out as a class project is now changing the way doctors issue exercise prescriptions.

Exercise-Rx is a computerized exercise prescription program developed by Erica Pascoal and Aaron Gazendam during their time in KNPE 463, an undergraduate course in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. The program was created in collaboration with the Queen’s-established Exercise is Medicine (EIM) initiative and is now used daily by the Loyalist Family Health Team in Amherstview.

Exercise-Rx aims to increase physical activity amongst patients in Kingston and Amherstview primarily through discussions and prescriptions between doctors and their patients.

Patients with diseases including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease could all receive prescriptions for exercise, along with their medication prescription.  For example, a patient with type 2 diabetes might find him or herself with a two-part exercise prescription that could include: aerobic training four days per week and two days per week of strength training, adding up to 150 minutes of activity per week as per the recommended Canadian physical activity guidelines.

“All doctors know that physical activity is important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” says Ms. Pascoal, Artsci’14, now a medical student at the University of Toronto. “We’ll be collecting data each year to analyze the results of this program, and checking to see if physical activity is affecting blood glucose levels in patients.”

For Ms. Pascoal and Mr. Gazendam, their decision to explore exercise prescriptions as a focus for their KNPE 463 project was based on their love of being active and their desire to keep exploring how physical activity can treat and prevent diseases.

“Previous research has shown that receiving written exercise advice from a physician can significantly increase the number of people participating in physical activity when compared to receiving verbal advice alone,” says Mr. Gazendam, Artsci’14, also a medical student at the University of Toronto.

Having this type of prescription available electronically increases its accessibility for health practitioners and their patients. As a complement to Exercise-Rx, the Loyalist Family Health Team has begun offering a monthly class with an occupational therapist to give those who are new to exercise a place to start and a place to help mobility-impaired people adapt the exercises to their capabilities. In addition, the health team has also begun promoting exercise across its clinic and on its website through how-to videos and “Walk with your Doc” – days where community members are invited to take a walk with their physicians and health team members.

Lucie Lévesque, KNPE 463 instructor and an associate professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, says that the outcomes of the initiatives developed in this community service learning course have real-world benefits.

“Initiatives like Exercise-Rx are important for everyone. Students get the opportunity to gain some experience in program development, implementation and evaluation and even publish their results and patients are able to easily access physical activity recommendations,” says Dr. Lévesque.

To read the full research paper, please follow this link.

More information on Exercise is Medicine.