Is it possible that exercise is ‘as effective as drugs’ for common diseases? Well, many scientists are beginning to think so!
You may not be shocked to hear that regular exercise is a major key to being healthy. What may shock you, on the other hand, is that researchers now think exercise is “potentially as effective” as drug intervention, and they suggest it “should be considered as a viable alternative to, or alongside, drug therapy.”
Despite the health benefits of physical activity have well-documented, studies conducted in England show only one-third of adults meet the recommended levels. Not very surprisingly, American adults may even be well below that according to a recent survey.
Yet prescription drug rates have been climbing higher and higher, increasing from an average of 11.2 to 17.7 prescriptions per person in England. And that’s just from the decade of 2000 to 2010.
Little evidence has been collected so far on how exercise compares with drugs in reducing the risk of death for common diseases.
Big Pharma may shell out millions of dollars to research and develop new drugs but do not see the financial benefit of testing a drug’s efficiency against exercise alone. A report published on bmj.com today suggests pharmaceutical companies should include exercise intervention as an active comparative arm in drug trials.
Huseyin Naci, a researcher from the London School of Economics, is hopeful that this will change. He says:
“I think there will likely be a culture shift in the coming years with exercise interventions gaining more interest. If such a shift occurs, patients and physicians may demand such evidence about the comparative life saving benefits of exercise and drugs.”
Preventing diabetes and heart disease
Together, researchers at the London School of Economics, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute at Harvard Medical School and Stanford University School of Medicine conducted a study analyzing the effectiveness of exercise versus prescription medicines on mortality across four conditions (secondary prevention of coronary heart disease, rehabilitation of stroke, treatment of heart failure and prevention of diabetes).
Secondary prevention refers to treating patients with existing disease before it causes significant illness.
There weren’t any statistically detectable difference found between exercise and drug interventions for secondary prevention of heart disease and prevention of diabetes.
This answer was composed from the analyzed results of 305 randomized controlled trials involving 339,274 individuals.
Furthermore, exercise was more effective than drug treatment for stroke patients. And even though diuretic drugs were shown to be more effective
than exercise and all other types of drug treatment for heart failure, this study proves that more tests such as this one need to be conducted.
And while it is tempting to believe popping a pill will cure all ills, simple lifestyle changes have already proved effective in the treatment of arthritis of the knee, depression, and high blood pressure.