Therapeutic Benefits of Exercise

One of the top four causes of ill-health in modern society is a sedentary lifestyle. Being physically active is not just preventative in protecting against illness, it is therapeutic in recovering from social, mental and physical disadvantage.

Depression – is the most common mental illness worldwide. A recent study involving nearly 2 million people has shown protective effects of exercise. Regular exercise has been found to decrease the symptoms and diagnoses of depression. (Schuch Am J Psychiatry, doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.17111194).

Cancer – Clinical Oncology Society of Australia has published a position paper outlining just how seriously they believe physical therapy should be woven into cancer care. The paper suggest that exercise can improve cancer outcomes. The society advise that exercise should “be embedded as part of standard practice in cancer care and to be viewed as an adjunct therapy” and that best practice includes formal referral to physical therapists experienced in oncological care. (Cormie et al Med J Aust 2018.doi:10.5694/mja18.00199).

Heart disease – exercise improves fitness which has positive, appreciable effects on the heart. As we get older our heart muscle can become stiff which can lead to heart failure. However, exercise in middle age can prevent the muscle stiffness. (Howden et al Circulation 2018.doi:10.1161/Circulationaha.117.030617).

Iodine in pregnancy

It has been noted for many years that Iodine is an essential micronutrient in pregnancy.

Severe iodine deficiency in the mother can lead to cretinism and mental retardation in the newborn.

World Health Organiziation has listed maternal iodine deficiency as a main cause of newborn brain impairment worldwide. The developing fetus is dependent on the mother’s thyroid hormone production for its brain development which in turn is dictated by natural dietary intake or supplementation of iodine. It is likely that low levels of maternal iodine consumption, especially in early pregnancy are associated with poor brain performances in their offspring.

A study in England followed up the children of over 1000 women who had their urinary iodine levels tested in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The study found that the children’s verbal, reading and IQ scores related to the mother’s iodine levels during her early pregnancy stage. Poorer childhood performances were associated with lower iodine measurements. (Lancet 2013;382:331-7)

Therefore it is recommended that all pregnant women should receive sufficient iodine in their diets by eating seafood or by taking iodine supplement of 150µg-220µg per day

Seafood – dietitians recommend two to three meals of seafood per week to get the beneficial fish oils.

Eating fish twice a week will also provide most adults with enough iodine to fulfill their average iodine requirement.

Bread – is now made using iodised salt in Australia. Organic breads and ‘no added salt’ breads are the only exceptions to this rule.

Seaweed (kelp), dairy products and eggs – provide additional dietary sources of iodine.

Some vegetables – may contain iodine, but only if they are grown in iodine-rich soils.

Health & Development Aid Abroad

Dr Lee has also been able to carry out medical aid work here in Australia as well as abroad.

This is through being a Committee Member of the board for Health and Development Aid Abroad – Australia Fund – HADA is a volunteer organization established since 1998 for establishing medical, educational, and agricultural and sanitation programs in countries of need.

Cervical Cancer Screening Clinic Congo DRC 2013

In late August 2013, I had the opportunity of visiting and working in Goma Congo DRC.

I worked at the Heal Africa Hospital Goma. ( I was there to teach the local Consultant Obstetrician Gynaecologist, Dr Justin Lussy about using colposcopy for cervical cancer screening.

Unfortunately, in the whole of Congo there is no form of screening tests for cervical cancer in women. This is also the case with many developing countries.

Here in Australia women are offered a free screening test in form of the Pap smear every 5 years. As a result, cervical cancer in Australia occurs at a rate of 6.7 per 100 000 which is much lower than countries such as Congo where the rate of such cancer is about 10 times that of Australia.

Furthermore, over half of the women who contract the cancer will die since the cancer is often found at a late stage of development because of the lack of screening programs. For example, between 1981 and 1990, data from Nairobi Hospital records showed that cervical cancer accounted for 70%–80% of all cancers found in the female genital tract (uterus, cervix and ovaries) and 8%–20% of all cancers.

During my visit, together with the Dr Justin Lussy and the clinic Nurse Rita, we set up the first ever colposcopy clinic in Goma where the population is approximately 20 million.

We attracted attention from the United Nations and we were interviewed on the UN radio. This hopefully will bring more attention to this devastating disease in Congo. Now that Dr Lussy has been trained, he will continue the screening on his own. I will continue to review the data he collates from the clinic and offer any help via email. I hope to be there again soon.

I wish to acknowledge the supporters who donated some consumable equipment towards the setting up of this vital screening program. These include Pindara Hospital (, donors through Health and Development Aid Abroad  ( and donors through AusHeal (

I have posted some photos of the clinic and a refugee camp, which I visited as well.