The simplest and safest way to be healthy might just be going for a walk! A recent study published in the British Medical Journal stepped back and took a broad view of possible medical interventions for serious health conditions. Their findings were reassuring to me, and hopefully inspiration for all physicians. Simply put: exercise works, and it works overtime and safely.
Let’s just start with establishing that this was a numerically significant body of research. Researchers performed a meta-meta-analysis (is there such a word?) on a total of 16 previously published meta-analyses and added into their study three recent exercise trials to yield a total of over 300 randomized trials involving more than 300,00 participants. Whew. They looked at 4 conditions (prevention of secondary heart disease, stroke rehab, heart failure treatment and diabetes prevention), all of them critical in terms of both human and financial cost. All of these conditions are quite serious, requiring time, money and risk, and the medications used are not simple solutions. The BMJ exercise review is not just numerically significant, but relevant to some of the most problematic areas of medicine.
Now for their findings. Exercise was as good as or better than drug treatment in the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease and prediabetes. Exercise was more effective than drug treatment for patients with a stroke, considering either anticoagulants or antiplatelet drugs. Diuretics proved more effective in congestive heart failure, but exercise fared comparable to other drug categories.
If a skilled physician is able to combine both nutritional and physical interventions, there are indeed even more clinical situations that I would respect to respond better to these lifestyle interventions than they do to drug treatment. Among that list I would include obesity, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, Parkinson’s Disease, dementia, and more.
Have you exercised yet this week?