Study: Why Exercise Might Be Better Than Meds

Is the answer to heart disease and diabetes really that simple?



In a culture where we reach for the Tylenol bottle at the slightest hint of a headache, the concept that exercise can actually be a form of medicine is pretty foreign. But, according to the New York Times, a recent study published in BMJ suggests that exercise is just as effective as drugs in treating some serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

The study, conducted by a graduate student at the London School of Economics and Political Science along with the director of the Stanford Prevention Research Center at Stanford University School of Medicine, compared the data of 305 past studies to determine whether drugs are any more effective than exercise in reducing the deaths of patients with heart disease, chronic heart failure, stroke or diabetes. The short answer? Nope.

The results of the study showed that drugs and exercise produced nearly identical results in patients with heart disease and diabetes: A patient who used exercise as a form of treatment had the same risk of dying, or surviving, as a patient who used the commonly prescribed drugs. When it came to those who’d suffered strokes, exercise actually had a significantly greater impact on their chance of survival than medication. Chronic heart failure was the one disease studied where drugs were more effective as treatment than exercise.

Now the question is, what types of exercise are most effective? And, why? Don’t expect to get those answers any time soon. As John Ioannidis, one of the leaders of the study, explained to the Times, there is a big need for more information regarding the effects of exercise and, in a perfect world, pharmaceutical companies would dedicate funds to such research. But, this being the real world and all, where bottom lines and profits rule, he’s understandably doubtful that such funding will materialize in the near future.

So. Do you want to start a Kickstarter fund, or should I?