Following up on a previous posting about MDs who “prescribe” exercise, and the potential benefits of other healthcare professionals, including mental health specialists, doing this, by coincidence- or perhaps not!- the New York Times had an article in the July 24, 2014 edition about a sports medicine specialist, Dr. Jordan Metzl does more than treat people with athletic injuries. He leads a pubic, and free, exercise group in Central Park twice per week, and he advocates using group exercise to help people with a wider variety of ailments, including problems that behavioral healthcare professionals treat.
The article includes some interesting quotes from Dr. Metzl. He says, “I want people to take (sic) exercise for their problems, whether it is memory issues, depression, anxiety, heart disease or high cholesterol.” He goes on to state that he wants people to learn “to use exercise as a first line drug (sic)” and to talk to their physicians about this. While the article does not get into his recommendations for other healthcare professionals, it is obvious that he believes that we should educate ourselves about the benefits of exercise and to actively promote this with our patients.
He cites some interesting research in support of the wellness benefits of exercise, especially group activities. His own groups that he leads in Central Park does not require special equipment and has the goal of strengthening the whole body with “body weight” conditioning exercises- using the resistance of the participant’s own body. His public workout groups are, however, pretty intense and most of the people with anxiety, depression and other problems typically seen by mental health professionals would probably not be up for this type of “prescription.”
My take: there is an increasing body of good, solid research in support of the benefits of exercise for a variety of problems, including mental health/behavioral ones. We should, I believe, at least discuss the benefits of increasing his or her activity level with our patients, and should encourage, in paticular, goup activities.
The article can be accessed at:
Richard Sethre, Psy.D., L.P.