Physical activity is a powerful drug that isn't part of a trillion dollar industry
Any large professional industry includes groups of people whose work at odds with each other. The health field is no different.
Research for my “junk infrastructure” documentary slowed down my writing schedule this week, but it did lead to a Twitter thread that’s been picking up steam. There’s no controversy in observing that physical activity is just what the doctor ordered. Long before experts had the wherewithal to explain how physical activity improved a person’s mood or memory, they knew it was something of a magical treatment.
In more recent years, magazines, journals, and blogs have published articles with titles like “Walk Off Your Depression” and “Walk Your Way Out of Anxiety.” The claims aren’t that therapists and pills are inherently bad, but that physical activity is powerful medicine.
But what can’t be ignored is that not every organization in the health industry benefits from a healthy population. Some for-profit corporations would have a substantial drop in revenue if too many doctors prescribed walking and bicycling instead of certain pharmaceuticals. It’s not a question of whether that’s true, only a question of dollar amounts.
One premise of my documentary is: “A doctor prescribes daily walking, but infrastructure prevents the patient from filling the prescription. Why?” Naturally, any connections between public health and public infrastructure are top of mind.
I’m not about to assume any person working in any industry knows much outside of their specialty. An auto mechanic might not know the first thing about bicycle repair. My bike mechanic had a conniption fit when I asked him to fix an electric scooter. “Where am I supposed to find wheels like this?!”
A pediatrician doesn’t need to be an expert in neurology, and a physical therapist doesn’t need to study anxiety treatments. I don’t expect every variety of “medical professional” (define as loosely as you will) to be aware, let alone well-versed, in all the finest urbanist talking points. But I absolutely expect every person connected to the health industry to be aware that physical activity is good for the mind and body.
We non-medical people hope the medical people learn about this stuff if they don’t already, through continuing education, conferences, webinars, and casual chitchat around the office.
The purpose of my tweet thread was to share a few observations and/or reminders:
Physical activity improves mental and physical wellness.
Junk infrastructure blocks physical activity.
Healthy infrastructure blocks profits for some.
Pharmaceutical companies work hard to maximize profits.
There are people within healthcare whose business depends on unhealthy behavior, like a sedentary lifestyle. Similar to the transportation industry, where e-scooter and auto manufacturers have conflicting interests,
some organizations work to increase public health
some organizations work to increase public consumption of pharmaceuticals