Structured exercise programs may be as effective, or even more useful, than medication to treat cardiovascular conditions. The authors evaluated and synthesized the results of 305 previous studies to compare the benefits of drug and exercise regimens on disease outcomes.
After identifying four conditions for which exercise has been studied as a preventive technique—coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and type-2 diabetes—Naci and Ioannidis compared the efficacy of drugs used to treat these conditions to previously-reported effects of exercise.
They found that structured physical activity was more effective than drug use in the treatment and prevention of strokes, and equally effective in the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease and diabetes. Diuretic drugs were more successful than exercise, however, in treating heart failure.
“[Our study] will trigger debate, which is really important,” said Naci. “In cases where we have evidence of exercise, exercise seems to do really well in comparison to drugs, but there are still a lot of instances where we don’t know how exercise fares against drugs.”
Via Seth Bilazarian, MD