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University of Missouri

The Essential Drug

School of Medicine alumnus prescribes exercise for everything.

Jordan Metzl

Jordan Metzl has completed 31 marathons and 11 triathlons, including the Ironman Lake Placid in New York. Photo courtesy of Jordan Metzl.

When sports medicine physician Jordan Metzl sees patients at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, he often writes a prescription that not only reduces the risk for Type 2 diabetes and helps block the progression of dementia but also boosts the immune system and diminishes the symptoms of depression. The miracle drug? Exercise.

Exercise is the most powerful medicine we have,” says Metzl, BA ’88, MD ’93, who while in medical school at MU noticed that his brain worked better after a run — he could sit longer and study better.

Since then, Metzl has completed 31 marathons, 11 Ironman triathlons and written The Exercise Cure (Rodale Books, 2013), a book that recommends fitness programs for health problems, such as getting aerobic exercise for hypertension and practicing yoga for anxiety.

In a country that spends more than $325 billion annually on prescription drugs, “We need to make sure people exercise every day of their lives,” he says.

Metzl wants medical schools to train students how to prescribe exercise to patients. He also advocates financial incentives, such as tax deductions and lower insurance premiums, to get people off the couch.

Metzl is working on his sixth book, which is about injury prevention for runners. Writing is familiar to the physician, who earned an undergraduate degree in English. “You just give yourself little goals, much like when you’re running a race.”