The Checkup: Should Doctors Consider Lack of Exercise a Medical Condition?

A Mayo Clinic physiologist says we should treat the body's "deconditioning" the same way we treat medical conditions.

• In a new commentary in the Journal of Physiology, Mayo Clinic physiologist Michael Joyner argues that the best shot we have at turning around obesity—and all our issues stemming from physical inactivity, for that matter—is for doctors and the public health community to begin treating inactivity as a medical condition or disease. So think of it like this: You go to the doctor complaining of fatigue and weight gain. Instead of prescribing a battery of pills and supplements, your doctor might prescribe a fitness regimen instead, recognizing that the underlying medical condition is the fact that you sit around all day and don’t get enough exercise. Writes NPR’s Shots:

Joyner says that he thinks about 30 percent of the responsibility to fight inactivity should fall on the medical community. “Physicians need to interact with patients about being active, and they need to write prescriptions for exercise,” he says.

At my recent physical, my doctor spent a full 45 minutes going over my medical history and daily health habits, working through a checklist and questionnaire she completes with every new patient. Part of that conversation included questions about my fitness and diet—questions I had never had a doctor ask before. I remember walking away feeling like it was the most thorough physical I’d had in my entire life, including all the ones I used to get before each school year. I felt like she drew the connection, more than any other doctor, between those kinds of habits and choices and overall health. It was really pretty awesome—and a conversation I think should be far less rare than it is.

• A new study on marriage and drinking habits found that marriage drives more women to the bottle, and divorce drives more men to it.

• And in other drinking-related news … wait, binge drinking makes college students happier? Something’s wrong with this picture.