The idea that exercise could be considered medicine or part of medicine is not new. This approach with its emphasis on health rather than diseases goes as far back as the ancient world with Hippocrates (460-370 B.C.) and Galen (129-210 A.D.)

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”



Before mainstream Western medicine started to focus on “sick care” at the beginning of the 20th century, a major part of a physician’s duties focused on the preservation and promotion of health and the prevention of disease. The Western world is currently facing a pandemic and in South Africa we are facing a quadruple burden of disease. This includes the large number of individuals infected with HIV. We have high rates of injury and also other infectious diseases but also a sharp rise in non-communicable diseases (NCD’s). These are chronic medical conditions or diseases which are non-infectious. Common examples of NCD’s are cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, depression and asthma. There is quite often a history of unhealthy behaviours, such as lack of exercise, poor nutrition and smoking, contributing to the development of NCD’s. There is also the understanding that these risk factors are modifiable through a change in lifestyle behaviours. The impact of NCD’s in South Africa is real as it affects large numbers of the working age population, impacting on the workforce and productivity of the country.  Even more worrying is that these unhealthy lifestyle patterns are already present in our children. It is said that this will be the first generation of children who will not live to the same age as their parents.

“The greatest wealth is health.”


There are three behavioural causes which lead to diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease and which in turn are responsible for up to 50% of premature deaths in the Western world. These are physical inactivity, poor nutrition and smoking. With respect to exercise recent studies have suggested that “physical activity, while not a drug, can behave like one.” It is clear today that physical activity is a viable and relatively cost effective way to improve health. In order for the current trend of poor lifestyle habits to be addressed the medical community will have to start prescribing lifestyle modification. Within this framework then there will be a need for knowledgeable and well trained exercise practitioners who are motivated by health outcomes. In South Africa this will be your Biokineticist. If you are considering making lifestyle changes which will include physical exercise, or if you want to use exercise to modify an existing medical condition your Biokineticist is the perfect partner on your journey to wellness.

Berryman, J.W. Exercise is medicine: A historical perspective. Curr. Sports Med. Rep. Vol. 9, no. 4. Pp 00-00, 2010.

Bradshaw, D. Non-communicable diseases – A race against time. Burden of disease unit, South African medical research council.

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Stephen Louw is a registered Biokineticist practicing in Benoni. Stephen studied through the University of Pretoria and the University of Zululand.
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