In 2015, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges put out a report calling exercise a “miracle cure.” This isn’t a conclusion based simply on some cohort or case-control studies. There are many, many randomized controlled trials. A huge meta-analysis done in 2009 and written by U. Kujala, affiliated with the Department of Health Sciences examined the effect of exercise therapy on outcomes in people with chronic diseases.
In musculoskeletal diseases, researchers found 32 trials looking specifically at the effect of exercise on pain and function of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee alone. Exercise improved those outcomes.
Ten more studies showed that exercise therapy increases aerobic capacity and muscle strength in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Other studies proved its benefits in other musculoskeletal conditions, such as, inflammation of the spine or vertebrae which is commonly associated with back pain.
For most middle-aged men who have had a heart attack, exercise therapy reduced all causes of mortality by 27 percent and cardiac mortality by 31 percent. Fourteen additional controlled trials showed physiological benefits in those with heart failure. Exercise has also been shown to lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension.
People with diabetes who exercise have lower blood sugar control, low enough to reduce the risk of complications from the disease. Twenty randomized controlled trials showed patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can walk farther and function better if they exercise.
Multiple studies have found that exercise improves physical function and quality of life in people who have Parkinson’s disease. Six more studies showed that exercise improves muscle power and mobility-related activities in people with multiple sclerosis.
The overall results of 23 randomized controlled trials showed that exercise improves symptoms of depression and fatigue.
Diuretic drugs (but not all drugs) were shown to be superior to exercise in preventing death from heart failure. But exercise was found to be equally good as drugs in preventing mortality from coronary heart disease. Exercise was better than drugs in preventing death among patients from strokes.
Many people will be surprised at how little you need to do to achieve these results.
According to the American Heart Association the recommendations for exercise are 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity for adults, or about 30 minutes each weekday. Moderate intensity is anything that gets your heart rate somewhere between 110 and 140 beats per minute is enough. Even vacuuming, mowing the lawn or walking your dog might qualify.