For years, I have written articles to celebrate May as “Exercise is Medicine Month.”
I’ve touted the benefits for exercise for the prevention and treatment of many diseases: hypertension,
heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, and many more.
Well, it’s May … Happy “Exercise is Medicine” Month.
A new study looked at almost 400 trials comparing exercise with medications for high blood pressure. Both endurance and resistance type exercise were studied, as well as many of the common different types of medications. The findings? Exercise was equally effective at lowering blood pressure as common medications.
Studies report that there is a relationship between physical activity and mental health—the more one is active, the better one’s mental health. In fact, 16 weeks of aerobic exercise training was comparable to standard medications for major depressive disorders.
Another study evaluated exercise against common medications for rehabilitation after stroke, treatment of heart failure, prevention of diabetes, and secondary prevention of heart disease. If someone has a heart attack, standard therapy includes a cholesterol medicine, two types of blood pressure medications, and a type of blood thinner.
Exercise couldn’t do that, could it? Yes!
There was NO statistical difference in a patient who took the medications versus the one who only exercised. After a stroke, exercise was clearly better than medication therapy. Heart failure patients did better with medications, but lived longer if they exercised.
Exercise does not require a class or a gym. Walking is the most common “exercise” studied in these trials. Medications may have side effects. Medications may cost significant amounts of money. Walking? Not so much for side effects or cost.
Wednesday, May 8, is the Doc Walk at 6:30 p.m. at Oak Park. Come exercise with me. Happy Exercise is BETTER than Medicine Month!
Dawn Mattern, MD, is a board certified in Sports Medicine and oversees the Trinity Sports Medicine department. Exercise is medicine is among her clinical interests.