The Exercise Cure: Exercise as Medicine, for Everything that Ails You

Dr. Jordan Metzl is an 11-time Ironman triathlete and a 30-time marathoner as well as being a sports medicine physician at New York City’s Hospital for Special Surgery.

His latest book, The Exercise Cure: A Doctor’s All-Natural, No-Pill Prescription for Better Health and Longer Life, approaches exercise as a highly effective form of medicine.

Rita Jacobs, author of The Way In: Journal Writing for Self-Discovery, sat down with Dr. Metzl to talk about The Exercise Cure.

Rita Jacobs: Your earlier book The Athlete’s Book of Home Remedies, addressed people who were already active. Why did you determine this new book was necessary? What need does it fill?

Jordan Metzl: I decided to write this book because as an athlete and sports medicine doctor I see patients of all ages. In my waiting room I can find anyone from an eight-year-old gymnast to an eighty-eight-year-old runner and the one commonality between them is that they want to move and be active because it makes them feel better.

What I began to realize is that the people who come to see me who are in their 60s, 70s and 80s who are active are not only healthy – they are definitely healthier than the general population. That led me to look into what was known about exercise as medicine.

The interesting thing is that my patients are often health professionals from the corridor on 1st and York Avenues in New York City, which is the location of New York Hospital and Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital. So I see patients who are oncologists, psychiatrists, internists, and neurologists.

They’re all active and I always ask them about the role of exercise for their own patients. It turns out that everyone suggests exercise but there is no common way to dose out the medicine of exercise for people of all ages and at all stages of fitness. Since I know my patients do best with exercise, I had to figure out how to get information about using exercise for health and as medicine out there. That’s how The Exercise Cure came about.

RJ: The book seems to address every possible ailment. Can you comment on that?

JM: Everyone thinks if you want to be healthy, don’t eat this, do eat that, go on a diet, etc. But the data on exercise is so much more compelling than any other approach and it works across the entire body. So what I really looked to do was to pull together the available information on exercise for your brain – the brain information was amazing – for your heart, for your endocrine system. We now know that even certain types of cancer are preventable with regular exercise. This book should inspire everyone to get off their butts and get going because “rest is rust.” I always knew that personally and now I know it scientifically and academically.

RJ: You have surprising information on memory loss and cognition issues and how exercise affects those ailments.

JM: There’s good research on the effects of exercise on memory, concentration, and sleep. Think of how much money we spend in this country on antidepressant medications and sleep aids, all of which have side effects. We have drugs for everything, when in many cases the best and safest drug is to get up and get moving.

RJ: You set up an interesting problem in the first couple of pages where you say that, when you tell people to exercise, often the reaction is a groan or shrug or a “not me.” Why is this book going to motivate people?

JM: People who are already exercising already know it’s great for them and the book will give them some more framework. People who don’t exercise and maybe think or know they should – they just have a tough time doing it but when they see the cross-body effects here, there will be no way they cannot do it. It’s the most irrefutable body of evidence assembled to date.

RJ: The book is also interestingly designed for reading in small bites; was that deliberate?

JM: This is not the kind of book you’re going to pick up and read straight through once. I want it to be a guidebook. The way I set it up is that the first half makes the case for exercise and the second half shows you how to implement that for yourself.

What I did in the second half is to put together fitness programs for everyone from the inactive to the very active. Different people have different needs and I want a wide variety of people to be able to use exercise. After all, a person who’s never taken a step at all is very different from a marathoner and I wanted to provide guidelines for everybody.

RJ: Are you afraid that this book might do away with the patients in your waiting room?

JM: No, not at all. My job is to keep them moving and if this keeps more people moving and puts me out of business, that’s fine with me. I’ll just do something else.

[Photo Credit: Maridav/]

Do you find that specific exercise helps you deal with chronic health issues? Tell us in the comments!

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