5 On Your Side

No pills: Exercise can treat some diseases just as well

Posted April 17

— Before you reach for the medicine bottle, read this. Research shows that, for some conditions, exercise might work as well as drugs or surgery.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that nearly one in 10 participants were able to give up their diabetes medication altogether after spending two years in a program that included exercise and dietary changes.

Sandra Wingate, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, discovered this to be true when the regular workouts prescribed by her doctor allowed her to stop taking the medicine he had also prescribed.

“If I keep with exercise and the diet changes, I will be off medication in a few months," said Wingate. “It’s hard when you’re doing it, but afterwards your body thanks you for it.”

Experts at Consumer Reports say strength training can help diabetics, too, because, the more muscle you have, the less likely you are to store extra glucose as fat.

Regular physical activity can also alleviate other diseases like arthritis and back pain.

"New guidelines for chronic lower back pain from the American College of Physicians say you should try non-drug therapies, including exercise, before you pop a pill," said Trish Calvo, a health and food editor at Consumer Reports. "For those suffering from arthritis, weight training can build muscle strength, reducing pressure on joints and improving stability."

Though a regular exercise program is a good idea, it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting any new workout plan.

"You can even learn how to use weights correctly from a certified trainer or a physical therapist to avoid worsening joint pain," added Calvo. "There's now a push to work a little harder before you turn to medicine."


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