Recently, a participant in one of my group strength classes told me a success story related to their health. For some time now, this person has been having back pain. Medical doctors did what they could to help relieve the pain, but the pain persisted.

When this person incorporated movement into their day, they minimized their pain. What kind of movement did they start? Did they start training for a marathon, 5k race or triathlon? Did they start the latest and greatest workout fad that comes and goes in our society every three to four years (and usually leaves people injured and discouraged with exercise)? Actually, they started a basic movement plan. They began walking every day to build up their endurance levels. They started attending a muscle strengthening and stretching class two times per week. They also started attending a mindful movement class in a warm water pool two times per week (a Tai Chi in water class which is officially called Ai Chi according to the Aquatic Exercise Association).

As a fitness trainer, this success story is exciting for me to hear and to share with others. If we as fitness trainers didn't hear these stories, we would not have a job. People would not want to use our services and expertise to help them stay well. I wonder if medical doctors get excited about these types of exercise success stories. Think about it.

Because of my decision to eat well, sleep well and exercise daily, I only have to see my doctor once a year for a well check-up. Yes, the occasional head cold or flu grabs me sometimes, but for the most part, I don't need to see the doctor much. I like my doctors, they are great, caring people. But it's nice to keep the co-pay and deductible money in my pocket versus giving it to the doctor for services that I probably could have prevented by living well and exercising.

Here's a doctor that's excited about exercise. According to Dr. I-Min Lee, a Harvard Medical School professor who studies the role of physical activity in preventing disease, promoting health and well-being, and enhancing longevity, exercise is medicine.

Dr. Lee was asked recently if physical activity was really as effective as prescription medications. Dr. Lee said, "Yes, I do think of it as medicine, and even better, it's medicine that's free and has very few side effects. The human body was designed so that all physiological functions are optimal when we move and increasingly, we are realizing it doesn't take much activity."

But wait, this gets even better. Dr. Lee then says, "There really is nothing I can think of where physical activity will not help in terms of disease or function. It's time to add physical activity to the list of daily health requirements like brushing your teeth and wearing a seat belt."

Remember, it doesn't take much activity. You don't have to destroy your body with exercise extremes. You may have once been able to run the miles and bench press the pounds that would impress others. So what if you can't now? You don't need to. Start a basic movement plan instead. Enjoy your exercise time.

Here's to you living well.

About the author: Jonathan Souder is the fitness director at Manor House, an ACTS Retirement-Life Community in Seaford. Email your thoughts to

exercise is the best medicine