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Exercise: not a miracle cure, just good medicine
  1. Domhnall MacAuley1,
  2. Adrian Bauman2,
  3. Pierre Frémont3
  1. 1Faculty of Life and Health Sciences, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland
  2. 2School of Public Health, and Director Prevention Research Collaboration, University of Sydney, Australia
  3. 3Department of Rehabilitation, Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval, Québec, Canada
  1. Correspondence to D MacAuley Domhnall, macauley{at}

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There is nothing miraculous about exercise. What is extraordinary is how long it is taking mainstream medicine to accept the importance of physical activity. A recent report from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Exercise: the Miracle Cure and the Role of the Doctor in Promoting It, reminds us of the benefits of physical activity,1 but we already know that it is effective in primary prevention, secondary prevention, and in the treatment of many common diseases. The report builds on decades of epidemiological evidence, years of identifying the “potential” health gain if physicians successfully prescribed physical activity, and even support efforts to medicalise inactivity by labelling it “sedentary death syndrome.”2

The role of doctors in promoting exercise has slowly developed through recent global dissemination of concepts such as “Exercise is Medicine,” started by the American College of Sports Medicine and adopted particularly in Canada, Australia, and South America,3 and “Health Enhancing Physical Activity,” initiated by WHO Europe.4 Promoting physical activity is, however, a major challenge in the modern environment with our lifestyle designed to reduce or eliminate physical activity at every opportunity.

Exercise is one of …

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  • Physical activity remains the best buy for public health.

  • Competing interests We have read and understood BMJ policy on declaration of interests and declare DMcA has done consultancy work for IOC Research Centres for Prevention of Injury and Protection of Athlete Health and been paid to give lectures on sport and exercise medicine. He is a former employee of The BMJ.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.