Another day brings us another study proving how important exercise can be as a treatment for a variety of ailments and illnesses.
This study was directed by Dr. John Ioannidis, of Stanford University.
The New York Times summarizes the results:
Exercise can be as effective as many frequently prescribed drugs in treating some of the leading causes of death, according to a new report. The study raises important questions about whether our health care system focuses too much on medications and too little on activity to combat physical ailments.
The Times points out that despite the best efforts of many people, the medical profession has spent very little time or effort testing the value of exercise as a treatment. Discovering new medication is sexier. It earns everyone more fame and more money. Besides, it’s easier to convince someone to take a pill than it is to get him to go to the gym four times a week.
The Times summarizes the results:
The results consistently showed that drugs and exercise produced almost exactly the same results. People with heart disease, for instance, who exercised but did not use commonly prescribed medications, including statins, angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors or antiplatelet drugs, had the same risk of dying from — or surviving — heart disease as patients taking those drugs. Similarly, people with diabetes who exercised had the same relative risk of dying from the condition as those taking the most commonly prescribed drugs. Or as the researchers wrote in statistics-speak, “When compared head to head in network meta-analyses, all interventions were not different beyond chance.”
On the other hand, people who once had suffered a stroke had significantly less risk of dying from that condition if they exercised than if they used medications — although the study authors note that stroke patients who can exercise may have been unusually healthy to start with.
Only in chronic heart failure were drugs noticeably more effective than exercise. Diuretics staved off mortality better than did exercise.