As a family medicine physician that works in general practice and sport & exercise medicine, I see patients present with a variety of injuries and ailments on a daily basis. I have a second passion and career however as a group exercise instructor, and I know that there are many benefits from participation in fitness classes! What does the evidence support?
A randomized control study published in the British Medical Journal in 2007 demonstrated improvements in walking speed, shoulder mobility, mood, and breast cancer specific quality of life after 12 weeks of group exercise training. Rehab programs are now starting to include group exercise for less traditional diseases such as heart disease as a result.
Optimal treatment for Fibromyalgia has included physical activity recommendations for years. It was recently demonstrated through a RCT of 207 women that combining group exercise (strength, aerobic, flexibility) with self-management education improves functional status, self-efficacy, and decreases key symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Falls in the elderly are often a concern due to poorer balance and less strength to support their frames. Low-moderate group exercise programs that include strength, endurance, mobility, and balance have shown significant increases in activity level and a subsequent relative drop in the 3-month fall rate.
But what about younger individuals? A fitness and nutrition intervention program in 10-12 year old children was evaluated in 1995 with a few key findings. Teacher implemented health programs including fitness and nutrition training resulted in improved fitness levels and lower diastolic blood pressure. It also resulted in decreased fat intake and increases in fiber intake. Fitness training had a more significant effect than the nutrition education groups.
It is clear that I can make a difference in the health and wellness of individuals I see, both in my career as a physician, but also as a group exercise instructor.
These programs should be included as a treatment options to our patients more frequently.