Is exercise medicine?

A critical sociological examination

Authored by: Dominic Malcolm , Emma Pullen

Routledge Handbook of Physical Activity Policy and Practice

Print publication date:  December  2017
Online publication date:  December  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138943087
eBook ISBN: 9781315672779
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter provides a critical sociological review of the Exercise is Medicine initiative of the ACSM and AMA, focusing particularly on the literal extrapolation that: a) exercise is the equivalent of a pharmaceutical; and b) that exercise and medicine as professional practices are becoming synonymous. It argues that the narrower sense of this claim is problematic for in its generalised and open-ended prescription, and in the disregard for potential side-effects, exercise is very different to, and subject to different regulations from, medicine as conventionally conceived. While there appears to be more evidence for the wider implication of the claim, this chapter suggests that Exercise is Medicine raises questions of jurisdictional legitimacy, the disempowerment of citizens and the obfuscation of what it means to be healthy or unwell. In so doing, Exercise is Medicine raises some key medical ethical questions that may, in part, be alleviated as and when EiM is supported by appropriate provision for the inevitable, undesirable, side-effects of treatment; namely sports-related injuries.

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