A syndemics approach to exercise is medicine

Caitlin Vitosky Clarke, Brynn Clairisse Adamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper offers new insights into the promotion of the Exercise is Medicine (EIM) framework for mental illness and chronic disease. Utilising the Syndemics Framework, which posits mental health conditions as corollaries of social conditions, we argue that medicalized exercise promotion paradigms both ignore the social conditions that can contribute to mental illness and can contribute to mental illness via discrimination and worsening self-concept based on disability. We first address the ways in which the current EIM framework may be too narrow in scope in considering the impact of social factors as determinants of health. We then consider how this narrow scope in combination with the emphasis on independence and individual prescriptions may serve to reinforce stigma and shame associated with both chronic disease and mental illness. We draw on examples from two distinct research projects, one on exercise interventions for depression and one on exercise interventions for multiple sclerosis (MS), in order to consider ways to improve the approach to exercise promotion for these and other, related populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-344
Number of pages22
JournalHealth (United Kingdom)
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2023


  • chronic disease
  • depression
  • exercise interventions
  • exercise is medicine
  • mental illness
  • multiple sclerosis
  • social determinants of health
  • syndemics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)


Dive into the research topics of 'A syndemics approach to exercise is medicine'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this