October 2, 2013
Exercise Can Be As Effective As Heart Meds, Says New Study
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Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe OnlineMillions of dollars and countless hours have gone into developing the latest heart medications. However, a new research review from a team of US and UK scientists has found regular exercise can be just as effective as these medications.
The review, which was published in the British Medical Journal, culled data from over 300 studies and included information on almost 340,000 individuals. The research team concluded exercise can be highly effective in treating cardiovascular disease and should be used as a comparison for upcoming drugs.
"In cases where drug options provide only modest benefit, patients deserve to understand the relative impact that physical activity might have on their condition," the study authors wrote.
In addition to rivaling cardiovascular drugs, physical exercise was seen to outperform some stroke medications in the review.
The researchers said this "blind spot" in medical research "prevents prescribers and their patients from understanding the clinical circumstances where drugs might provide only modest improvement but exercise could yield more profound or sustainable gains.”
The study researchers emphasized their results do not necessarily mean patients should stop taking their drugs, but rather they should consider the benefits of adding regular exercise to their routine. Amy Thompson, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation who was not involved in the review, told BBC News the findings are not enough to draw any firm conclusions about the benefit of exercise over medications.
"Medicines are an extremely important part of the treatment of many heart conditions and people on prescribed drugs should keep taking their vital meds,” Thompson said. “If you have a heart condition or have been told you're at high risk of heart disease, talk to your doctor about the role that exercise can play in your treatment."
Dr. Peter Coleman of the Stroke Association told the British news agency exercise could play a crucial role in treating cardiovascular conditions and called for more research.
"We would like to see more research into the long-term benefits of exercise for stroke patients,” he said. "By taking important steps, such as regular exercise, eating a balanced diet and stopping smoking, people can significantly reduce their risk of stroke."
"Moderate physical activity, for example, can reduce the risk of stroke by up to 27 percent,” Coleman added.
According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), a lack of physical activity is the fourth biggest risk factor for mortality worldwide and plays a role in approximately 3.2 million deaths worldwide each year.
To mitigate this risk factor, the WHO advises that people regularly engage in moderate-intensity physical activity. Hiking or playing in recreational sports can cut the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, bone fractures and depression – in addition to helping control body weight.
Through her “Let’s Move” campaign, Michelle Obama has made advocating for regular physical activity, particularly among young children, the centerpiece of her role as first lady.
“Children need 60 minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity every day to grow up to a healthy weight,” reads a statement on the campaign website. “If this sounds like a lot, consider that eight to 18 year old adolescents spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media including TV, computers, video games, cell phones and movies in a typical day, and only one-third of high school students get the recommended levels of physical activity.”