Making it to the gym every morning may never be as easy as taking a pill, but this type of exercise could be just as effective at treating common diseases … and without the nasty side effects.
Unsurprisingly, very little research has been done that pitted exercise and drug treatments against each other, so researchers from the London School of Economics and Stanford University reviewed 305 previous studies that tested them separately.
When it came to reducing the risk of death in people with heart disease or the early stages of diabetes, exercise and drugs worked equally well. In addition, exercise was more effective than current drug treatments for stroke.
As for heart failure, diuretic drugs (aka “water pills”) trumped exercise this time—although there may be benefit of exercise alongside drug treatments.
But given that 79 million Americans have prediabetes and 26.5 million have heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there’s plenty of room for exercise to make a difference.
The researchers call for more studies that compare drug and exercise treatments directly, but in the meantime they think it’s time for more doctors to start writing a prescription for patients to get off the couch and start moving.