08/16/2012 11:07 am ET Updated Oct 16, 2012

Deconditioning Is A Condition, Doctor Says

By Katherine Harmon
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Doctors know a lot about prescribing medications. "Take two brisk walks and call me in the morning." But for many patients, a light get-moving plan might be just what the doctor should have ordered.

Many of us aren't exactly in peak physical condition. But a large number of people are actually deconditioned. So says the Mayo Clinic's Michael Joyner in an essay in The Journal of Physiology. [Michael Joyner, Standing Up for Exercise: Should Deconditioning Be Medicalized?]

After surgery, illness, pregnancy or extended inactivity for any reason, people might feel faint or fatigued when they try even mild exercise. These signs, Joyner argues, should be recognized by doctors not as symptoms that should be treated with drugs, but rather as a medical state of deconditioning that might be better helped with a gentle, guided exercise program.

It might sound counterintuitive that fatigue can be beat back with exercise. But remember Newton--Isaac, not Fig. A body at rest stays at rest. And a body in motion needs to resist external forces acting upon it that might slow it down.