Exercise is just as effective as many drugs for patients with coronary heart disease and stroke, a study published on BMJ.com has found.
Although the researchers believe more work should be done to compare exercise and drugs to help clinicians make the best treatment options, they said exercise “should be considered as a viable alternative to, or alongside drug therapy”.
In the UK, only 14% of adults exercise regularly, with around one in three adults in England meeting the recommended levels of activity.
Researchers from the London School of Economics, Harvard Medical School and the Stanford University of medicine analysed 305 randomised control trials involving 339,274 participants.
The researchers found no difference between exercise and drug interventions for the secondary prevention of heart disease and prevention of diabetes.
For stroke patients exercise was more effective than drug treatment, but for heart failure diuretic drugs were more effective than exercise or any other type of drug treatment.
In the study the researchers conclude: 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. Indeed, an increasing number of experts recommend prescribing an “exercise pill” as a preventive strategy to reduce morbidity and mortality.
“However, as previous systematic reviews have shown, there is considerable uncertainty as to the effectiveness of primary care interventions for increasing physical activity.”