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Is Exercise Better than Drugs?

By on Oct 8, 2013

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Is exercise better than drugs?New research has suggested that exercise may be as effective as drugs at treating conditions such as heart disease and strokes. This latest research questions whether doctors may be unnecessarily prescribing drugs, when dietary and exercise advice may be more appropriate. So is exercise better than drugs?, maybe doctors should be prescribing a regular walk or jog?

The research analysed previous studies found no “statistically significant” difference between the effects of drugs and exercise for people with type 2-diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The research did however find that drug treatment (diuretics) was more effective than exercise for heart failure.

The study which was published in the British Medical Journal analysed the results from 305 randomised trials involving 340,000 patients, was carried out by researcher Huseyin Naci from LSE Heath, London School of Economics and Political Sciences and Harvard Medical School.

The researchers found that prescription numbers are continually on the increase, but exercise and activity levels are comparatively decreasing. Prescription numbers have dramatically increased during the past decade, with average of 11.2 prescriptions for every person in the UK in 2000 compared to 17.7 prescriptions in 2010.

The researchers found that only 14 per cent of adults in the UK exercise regularly and only around a third of the adult population meet the recommended activity levels. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that physical inactivity causes 3.2million deaths around tyhe world each year. This is a staggering figure, and one which can easily be reduced, without the need for any equipment, and without unwanted side effect! Regular walking, cycling, sports activities or jogging is enough to make a huge dent in this death rate. The added benefit of regular exercise is an overall improvement in heath, stronger bones, weight control, and reducing the risk of cancer and depression.

The researchers commented, “The findings of our review suggest that exercise and many drug interventions are often potentially similar in terms of their mortality benefits; exercise interventions should therefore be considered as a viable alternative to, or alongside, drug therapy.”

They added that in cases when drug therapy only provides a modest benefit, the importance of exercise should be fully explained to patients. This is something that the NHS should be looking to complement with standard drug therapy.

Further trials are required for specific health conditions, but exercise is substantially better than no exercise, and it could also improve the effectiveness of medication.