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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Exercise as Potent Medicine

The results...underscore how infrequently exercise is considered or studied as a medical intervention, Dr. Ioannidis said. “Only 5 percent” of the available and relevant experiments in his new analysis involved exercise. 

"They ended up with data covering 305 past experiments that, collectively, involved almost 340,000 participants, which is an impressive total. But most of the volunteers had received drugs. Only 57 of the experiments, involving 14,716 volunteers, had examined the impact of exercise as a treatment. Still, the numbers were large enough that Mr. Naci and Dr. Ioannidis could create an elaborate network of cross-references, comparing the outcomes when people received certain drugs, followed exercise regimens or, occasionally, both. The exercise routines, typically part of rehabilitation programs, usually involved walking or other aerobic routines but sometimes consisted of weight training or other exercises. The researchers compared mortality risks for people following any of the treatment options.
The results consistently showed that drugs and exercise produced almost exactly the same results. People with heart disease, for instance, who exercised but did not use commonly prescribed medications, including statins, angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors or antiplatelet drugs, had the same risk of dying from — or surviving — heart disease as patients taking those drugs. Similarly, people with diabetes who exercised had the same relative risk of dying from the condition as those taking the most commonly prescribed drugs. Or as the researchers wrote in statistics-speak, “When compared head to head in network meta-analyses, all interventions were not different beyond chance.” On the other hand, people who once had suffered a stroke had significantly less risk of dying from that condition if they exercised than if they used medications — although the study authors note that stroke patients who can exercise may have been unusually healthy to start with."