Rx for Combating Disease: Exercise

Chances are you are well aware of the merits of exercise. However, recent research suggests that the benefits of exercise in reducing mortality from heart disease, diabetes and stroke match or even exceed the effects of prescription drugs for the same conditions. In fact, an article in Tufts University Newsletter reported that patients, who exercised, for instance, had the same odds of surviving the condition as those given medications such as statins or antiplatelet drugs.

However, before you toss your meds in the trash, consider what Miriam E. Nelson, Tufts’ Friedman School professor and author of “Strong Women” says in the article. “This doesn’t mean you should stop taking your medications,” Nelson says. “But it does suggest how effective exercise can be whether or not it is added to whatever drug regimen your prescribes.”

Study authors say the results suggest that exercise can be quite potent in treating heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Additionally, they suggest that people should think long and hard about their sedentary lifestyles and discuss incorporating exercise into their care along with prescription drugs.

Tufts’ Nelson agrees and adds that if you’ve been sedentary for a while it’s important to build up slowly, increasing the duration and intensity of your exercise a little bit at a time.“This will allow you to gain the greatest benefit without burning out,” she says. “And for aerobic exercise, in particular, choose exercises that you enjoy. That’s also crucial for sticking with it.”