Don't dump the drugs just yet. But a new study indicates that exercising could be just as helpful as taking medications in treating heart disease and some conditions related to diabetes, reported CBS News on October 2.
When the researchers analyzed relative risk, they found no distinctions between patients who used drugs versus patients who used exercise to prevent heart disease or treat pre-diabetes. The Harvard researchers involved in the study emphasized that physical activity should be implemented as a key strategy with or as an alternative to medication.
"Exercise is a potent strategy to save and extend life in coronary heart disease and other conditions," said study co-author Huseyin Nac, a fellow in pharmaceutical-policy research at Harvard Medical School. "We think exercise can be considered or should be considered as a viable alternative or in combination with drug therapy."
To conduct the study, researchers evaluated data from 305 randomized controlled trials with 339,274 participants. The studies included four different health conditions:
- type 2 diabetes
- repeat coronary heart disease
- repeat strokes
- heart failure
Most participants were given medication, with 14,700 instructed to exercise regularly. The researchers determined that those told to exercise reduced their risk of repeat coronary heart disease. In addition, physical activity was shown to help treat pre-diabetes and be more effective than drugs in preventing second strokes.
"In cases where drug options provide only modest benefit, patients deserve to understand the relative impact that physical activity might have on their condition," concluded the researchers.