Exercise can be as good a medicine as pills for people with conditions such as heart disease, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) which looked at hundreds of trials involving nearly 340,000 patients to assess the merits of exercise and drugs in preventing death.
Physical activity rivalled some heart drugs and actually outperformed stroke medicine, but the findings suggest exercise should be added to prescriptions and that patients should not ditch their drugs for exercise but use both in tandem.
For the study, scientists based at the London School of Economics, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute at Harvard Medical School and Stanford University School of Medicine searched through medical literature to find any research that compared exercise with pills as a therapy.
They identified 305 trials to include in their analysis which looked at managing conditions such as existing heart disease, stroke rehabilitation, heart failure and pre-diabetes.
When they studied the data as a whole, they found exercise and drugs were comparable in terms of death rates. But there were two exceptions.
Drugs called diuretics were the clear winner for heart failure patients, while exercise was best for stroke patients in terms of life expectancy.
Source: British Medical Journal
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