Rachel Hamilton - Headshot

Rachel Hamilton is a recent BHSc graduate of Western University. She is interested in health promotion, as well as creating innovative and cost-effective solutions to healthcare problems, and cannot wait to begin a career in health administration.

By Rachel Hamilton

As obesity continues to prove to be a wicked issue in health care, the repercussions of overeating and inactivity will become more obvious by the increasing number of citizens having to cope with chronic conditions. The health care system will not be able to combat the obesity epidemic with biomedical means alone. The promotion of physical activity is a simple and proven method to not only manage weight, but decrease the likelihood of developing many chronic conditions, such as diabetes and most cancers (Lee, 2009).  Ironically, the central hub for health care, the hospital, is very unaccommodating with regards to providing opportunity and support for patients to improve the healthiness of their lifestyle. Patients are often cooped up in hospital beds and advised to rest to recovery, leading to sedentary activity which only pushes them further from a healthy lifestyle. The cultural shift to an understanding of health as not merely the absence of disease, but the overall well-being of an individual, is one that needs to be enforced. In order for a paradigm shift to occur in society, a great starting place would be in hospitals, an establishment that already has the support and trust of society in regards to their health. By providing proper facilities for patients to learn and participate in fitness activities, a healthy and active lifestyle can be adopted by patients within the hospital, which can then be transferred to their everyday life outside of the hospital.

Life of a patient admitted in hospital can be draining, monotonous and boring. Many of the medications used to treat chronic conditions can cause a great deal of fatigue in patients, especially in those being treated for cancer. Exercise has been proven to help improve the burdensome fatigue symptoms that these medications can cause (Zawistowski, 2009). Physical activity has also shown to improve quality of life, ability to cope, and mood of patients (Zawistowski, 2009). By exercising, certain conditions can be improved, which can delay or reduce the need for treatment (Zawistowski, 2009). However, the usual lifestyle of an in-patient consists of lying in bed all day, which has been shown to deplete the body’s muscle mass. Essentially, the environment provided in hospitals can be considered counterproductive, in that although major health problems are treated, the health-impairing sedentary lifestyle we must shift away from is being encouraged. Incorporating a gym or work-out facility in health centres would facilitate the adoption and maintenance of a healthy lifestyle in patients.

Creating a physical activity centre within hospitals or other health care facilities gives the opportunity for exercise to become a part of treatment and recovery. It can make a positive lifestyle change into a part of getting better. Currently in the health care system, the resources to help patients incorporate physical activity into everyday life simply do not exist. Children are trapped in hospital beds and told to sleep or watch a movie instead of playing tag. Adults are unable to keep up with fitness routines whilst being treated in hospital. Often people do not even have physical activity incorporated into their lifestyle, yet the most reputable health care facilities have no way to help implement health behaviour change. The focus of health care is on treating the sick once they become sick. We must shift the attention to overall wellbeing, and to maintaining lifelong health so that our culture embraces and normalizes a healthy lifestyle. Creating a centre to allow physical activity to happen at a hospital can help to introduce this necessary health promotion revolution. It can show people of all backgrounds, shapes, sizes, races, and ages that they can be active and it will improve their health. The transformation of the health care system into the “health and wellness” care system will be one that greatly improves the health of our population.

Markham-Stouffville hospital has recently begun building an addition that will include a community centre to implement this idea (Salgado, 2011). The facility includes a multitude of amenities within the centre, including a gymnasium, a weight and cardio room, as well as a pool. Connecting the hospital to a community centre allows access to patients, but makes the centre beneficial for the surrounding public as well. This community centre attachment will allow for many treatments to incorporate physical activity into treatment or therapy. Though additional funding is required to initially build and finance the workforce to run these facilities, the benefits to the population outweigh the cost. A decrease in the prevalence of chronic conditions will lessen the strain on the health care system. By furthering health promotion to include implementation of healthy lifestyle improvements in patients, there is a greater chance for this change to be accepted and applied in everyday life. In order to begin this culture shift, the push for one needs to come from the health care system.

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References:

Lee, Y. (2009). Consequences of childhood obesity. Annals academy of medicine singapore, 38(1), 75-81.

Salgado, B. (2011). PCL – East Markham community centre and library. B _ C Canada. Retrieved from:

http://www.buildingandconstruction-canada.com/index.php/sections/community/341-pcl–east-markham-community-centre-and-library

Zawistowski, C. “Physical activity can be a supportive intervention for cancer patients”. HemOnc           today.  October 10, 2009. Retrieved from:  http://web.ebscohost.com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=711e6a29-47e1-40fe-b34a-8f11e689686f%40sessionmgr114_vid=2_hid=119

This article is published under the Bright Ideas project, a joint Ivey International Centre for Health Innovation and NationalHealthWatch.ca initiative aimed at promoting ideas of future leaders and generating dialogue.  Over the course of the next three months, Bright Ideas will profile blogs from Ivey health stream students. 

The views expressed in these blogs are the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of the International Centre for Health Innovation or NationalHealthWatch.ca.