Beth Kitchin PhD RD blogs twice a week on health and nutrition topics. Beth's blogs are refreshingly fact-based and offer a common sense approach to a healthier life. She's a food lover so don't expect her to tell you what not to eat! Beth is a registered dietitian, an Assistant Professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Nutrition Sciences Department, and the patient educator at UAB's Osteoporosis Prevention and Treatment Clinic.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Exercise: The Best Medicine
very interesting article was just published in the British Medical Journal. The
researchers reviewed meta-analysis studies that compared exercise and
medications to each other or placebo and the effects they had on the risk of
death. Collectively, these studies suggest that exercise and medications have
similar outcomes when it comes to lowering death.
A quick lesson about
Meta-Analyses:Any time you see an article that talks about
results of a meta-analysis, you should proceed with caution!A meta-analysis is tricky business.
Researchers combine data from several studies and reanalyze it as one study.
They do this when there are few large, definitive studies in a specific
research area. So they take a bunch of studies that meet their specific
criteria as far as study design, research variables, study participant
characteristics, etc. and crunch the data together. This method is imperfect at
best because no matter how similar studies may be, the differences in how the
data were gathered can result in much less precise results when you put all the
data together. That said, these studies can be useful in areas where larger
studies are lacking.And if the
researchers conducting the meta-analyses use rigorous methods, then the data
can at least be somewhat useful.
What this study found: The results of this
particular meta-analyses are particular interesting and encouraging. The
researchers looked at studies that looked at deaths related to heart disease,
stroke, heart failure, and pre-diabetes. The risk of all of these diseases can
be lowered by diet and exercise. But no one has ever shown if exercise by
itself can reduce the risk of dying from these diseases or if exercise is as
effective as medicines in lowering the risk of dying from these diseases.
heart disease and prediabetes, the researchers found that exercise was just as
effective as medicines for preventing deaths caused by these two common
diseases. In the case of stroke, exercise was found to be more effective than
medicines in preventing death from stroke.
What kind of
the studies reviewed were meta-analyses, the exercise programs in each of the
studies were different. Most used a combination of muscle strengthening
exercises and aerobic exercise like walking, biking, or swimming.
exciting message – that we do have to approach with caution – exercise may be
as effective – and in some cases more effective – than medicines when it comes
to treating severalof the diseases that
Americans are most likely to die from. Since medicines can be expensive and
have possible side effects, this is a good news message. And don’t forget that
exercise has other benefits as well such as improving mood and your ability to
do the day to day activities you need and want to do.
Beth Kitchin, PhD, RDN Assistant Professor,Nutrition Sciences University of Alabama at Birmingham
H. & Ioannidis, J. Comparative effectiveness of exercise and drug
interventions on mortality outcomes: metaepidemiological study. 2013. BMJ