When Dr. Michelle Johnson scribbles out prescriptions, the next stop for many of her patients is the gym, not the pharmacy.

Doctors treating chronic health problems increasingly are prescribing exercise for their patients — and encouraging them to think of physical activity as their new medication.

In one such program run by a health center in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, primary care physicians, internists and psychologists prescribe access to a gym for $10 a month, including free child care, classes and kids programs. Providing affordable gym access for patients ensures compliance, said Gibbs Saunders of Healthworks Community Fitness, a nonprofit gym in Dorchester that has partnered with several health care providers to help low-income residents fill their exercise prescriptions.

Executives at the Whittier Street Health Center say low-cost access to a gym is important, since many residents’ income is low and 70 percent of those they treat suffer from chronic problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and depression.

Life expectancy in Roxbury is 59 years — well below the national average of 78.8 years.

“Exercise is not a new medicine. It’s really an old medicine,” said Johnson, who prescribes exercise to patients at the Roxbury-based health center. “But you know, I think we’re now coming to the point of understanding how important it is.”

Monisha Long, who is morbidly obese and suffers from hypertension, got a doctor’s prescription for exercise and says she’s gotten visible and dramatic results after more than two years of regular workouts.

“I lost well over 150 pounds, and I’ve been keeping it off for the past couple of years,” she said after working out on an elliptical machine at Healthworks.

And Long cites other, less-visible benefits.

“I’m more energized,” she said. “As far as my energy, I feel like I’m stronger. I feel like I’m less tired. I feel like I can do almost anything now.”

Continue here.

If you haven’t already tried apple cider vinegar (an ancient folk remedy used to cure a variety of health conditions), maybe it’s time you should. A new year often brings with it hefty weight-loss goals, so anything that can help boost your efforts might be worth trying. But the real question is: Does it actually work?

We turned to nutritionist and fitness trainer Franci Cohen and Derek Johnson, corporate director of nutrition for The Biggest Loser Resort, for the answer.

The Facts
“Apple cider vinegar does not increase metabolic function, but it has been proven to aid in fat loss for various reasons,” says Cohen. “Vinegar is effective at reducing the speed at which glucose (sugar) enters the blood, thereby lowering blood sugar levels. This is an asset to both diabetics and those looking to lose weight.”

Johnson adds, “The process of metabolism has many moving parts—it’s affected by sleep, exercise and digestion. It is why skipping breakfast can cause weight gain by slowing down your metabolism and increasing hunger later in the day. If you had apple cider vinegar before eating doughnuts, it would have no effect on the fat-storing properties of insulin. That being said, some studies do show that apple cider vinegar can help with sugar levels in a healthy diet.”

How It Works

Studies show that too much acidity in the body has been linked to weight gain. “Apple cider vinegar does the opposite by helping to alkalize the body (balance acidity levels), which therefore aids in weight loss,” says Cohen. It also acts as an appetite suppressant (telling your brain not to crave snacks all day), and assists your stomach in digestion and the breakdown of food for energy.

Adding It Into Your Diet
According to Cohen, the most effective way to consume apple cider vinegar is to drink 1-2 teaspoons (there are about three calories per tsp.), mixed into a glass of water before each meal three times a day. The taste is a little hard to get used to (honestly, I’m not sure you ever really get used to it), so I found that pinching my nose shut and downing it quickly like a shot of strong medicine was the best method. Johnson says it also works well as a salad dressing—think of it as an amped-up vinaigrette of sorts.

One To Try:
Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar ($8)

Check out the original article here.

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