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Exercise could be as effective as medication

A study has revealed that exercise is just as effective in terms of mortality benefits as some frequently prescribed drugs

The study was published in the British Medical Journal is October, and researchers So Huseyin Naci and Dr John Ioannidis looked at comparative effectiveness studies, used in pharmaceutical research to track how well one drug treats a condition compared with the outcome of another. Initially, they found that few studies had compared drugs with exercise. They looked at comparative effectiveness studies which had been carried out on people who had been diagnosed with heart disease, chronic heart failure, stroke or diabetes.

Naci and Ioannidis collected date covering 305 experiments which involved almost 340,000 participants, most of which had received drugs. Only 57 experiments (14,716 volunteers) had considered exercise as a form of treatment. Using this information, where the exercise had usually consisted of walking, aerobic routines or occasional weight training  the results showed that drugs and exercise consistently produced almost exactly the same results.

With the heart disease and diabetes trials, participants showed the same levels of dying from or surviving the condition whether they were on drugs or taking exercise. People who had suffered from a stroke also had significantly less risk of death if they had exercised although this may have been to do with them being unusually healthy to begin with. However, from the chronic heart failure trials, drugs were noticeably more effective.

girl running

Although this quite clearly shows that exercise is beneficial for most leading causes of death, Ioannidis stated that they would need far more information to carry out a full analysis on other conditions. Naci said ‘We are not suggesting that anyone stop taking their medications,’ but that people should consider their lifestyles and talk to their doctors about whether exercise could also help them.

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