The latest "wonder drug" discovered by science to treat various diseases is good old exercise. Researchers from London, Harvard and Stanford conducted a study to compare the effects of exercise and prescription medication in treating certain chronic conditions, and found exercise can be just as good as taking a pill when it comes to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In fact, exercise was actually found to be more effective than drugs for extending the lifespan of stroke patients. "Using exercise as an integral part of (a treatment regimen) is really, really important not only to help conditions like cardiovascular disease, but it's also been shown to be beneficial in other diseases like cancer," says Dr. John Higgins, sports cardiologist from UT Health Science Center in Houston.
The health benefits of exercise have long been touted by doctors and health experts, and Dr. Higgins says this latest research proves they have not been exaggerated. "Exercise really is a great intervention, not only to prevent illness from coming on, but if you do happen to have some illness, it seems to be beneficial for all illnesses." Researchers did note that their findings don't mean those with heart disease or diabetes should abandon medicinal treatments, only that they should consult with their doctor about the possible benefits of adding exercise to their current treatment program.
Outside of disease treatment and prevention, there are other ways regular exercise can enhance your life. "Exercise we know has a great effect on your mood, keeping you upbeat, keeping you positive," says Dr. Higgins. People who exercise regularly also tend to sleep better, which has other health benefits. Even something as basic as walking your pet or taking a bike ride can make a big difference in your well-being, according to doctors. "It will not only prevent problems from occurring, but will make you live a healthier and happier life," says Dr. Higgins.