Dr. Robert Sallis, a family and sports medicine physician, advocated for increasing physical activity as a way to fight various health concerns and the role of universities in student wellness Sept. 12 at Elon University’s McCrary Theatre.

Sallis, past president of the American College of Sports Medicine and the founding editor-in-chief of the ACSM’s clinical journal, Current Sports Medicine Reports, was the first guest in this year’s Voices of Discovery Speaker Series.  

“It's a pleasure to be here to speak to you tonight about a topic that is this merging of fitness and medicine to achieve better outcomes in terms of health care,” Sallis said. 

Following the metaphor of exercise as a prescription drug used on patients for various medical issues, Sallis shared the importance of the weekly movement. He said at least 160 minutes a week of exercise could ultimately mediate the harmful effects of obesity and premature death.

As an athlete, Elon freshman Ethan Mars said it is crucial to understand how activity impacts his life. 

“Even though I am a cross country runner, I still think it is so important to know that what I’m doing is positively affecting my entire lifespan of health and even my mental health daily,” Mars said. 

To show evidence of his claims, Sallis displayed slides of data and previous research, including a survey on the effects of weekly biking on Parkinson’s disease and a physical therapy program for spinal cord injuries, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, titled “The Perfect Step.”

Both studies, according to Sallis, exhibit the effectiveness that physical activity can have to improve medical disorders, even past levels offered by prescription medications.

For freshman Sydney Swan, the data on Parkinsin’s disease data was most striking. 

“I have an uncle who has Parkinsons, and he's starting to show symptoms,” Swan said. “I think it’d be really beneficial for him to understand how beneficial even just easy exercise could be”.

Sallis ended his presentation by circling back to something familiar to many — COVID-19. Sedentary patients are 2.26 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who are active, according to Sallis.

“The evidence is overwhelming,” Sallis said. “Exercise’s benefits in preventing and treating chronic diseases, including COVID, are absolute. For that reason, I believe that health care providers have an obligation to assess each patient's exercise habits and make a proper exercise prescription.”

Sallis said he hopes Elon students will take their own life plans seriously and help lead the initiative toward a longer and healthier life for themselves and others.

“I hope you'll be out there to be an agent for that change at Elon University,” Sallis said.