Exercise may be at least as
effective as some drugs in reducing the risk of death in stroke patients or
people with heart disease, a study published on Wednesday said.
Researchers from the London
School of Economics, Harvard Medical School and Stanford University School of
Medicine compared the findings of several studies into the effectiveness of
exercise versus drugs in people with coronary heart disease, stroke patients,
people with pre-diabetes and those with heart failure.
They analysed the results
of 305 randomised controlled trials involving 339 274 individuals.
Drug interventions favoured
The data trawl "found
no statistically detectable differences" between exercise and drug
treatment in reducing mortality for people with coronary heart disease or pre-diabetes
symptoms, according to a statement released by the British Medical Journal
(BMJ), which published the study online.
In stroke patients, the
team found that exercise was more effective than drugs, while medicine worked
better at treating heart failure.
The team urged more trials
to back up their findings, given the current dearth of information on the
While exercise is a key
factor for better health and long life, most research focused on drugs instead.
Medical research, said the
team, "seems to increasingly favour drug interventions over strategies to
"The current body of
medical literature largely constricts clinicians to drug options," rather
than prescribing exercise in cases where this may be a more effective
Until more is known,
exercise "should be considered as a viable alternative to, or alongside,
drug therapy," the team wrote.
The World Health
Organisation (WHO) says physical inactivity is the fourth-leading risk factor
for global mortality, causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths globally each