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Exercise as medicine

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Before you reach for a pill to help fix what ails you, it might be better to reach for your gym gear. Research shows that for some conditions, exercise might work as well drugs and surgery, and with fewer side effects. So why don’t doctors prescribe it more often? Consumer Reports has advice on how to get the disease-fighting benefits of exercise.

In fact, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found nearly one in 10 participants were able to give up diabetes medication altogether, that after 2 years on a program that included exercise and dietary changes.

Exercise has also been shown to be a very effective tool against other chronic conditions. For chronic lower back pain new guidelines from the American College of Physicians say you should try non-drug therapies, including exercise before you pop a pill.

For arthritis sufferers: weight training can build muscle strength thereby reducing pressure on joints and improving stability. But it’s important to learn how to use weights correctly from a certified trainer or a physical therapist to avoid worsening joint pain. Strength training can help people with diabetes too. The more muscle you have the less likely you are to store extra glucose as fat.

Consumer Reports says it’s also important for those with diabetes to have some food before working out. And those on insulin should discuss the best time to exercise with their doctor. Both steps help avoid a potentially dangerous drop in blood sugar.

If your ailment is back pain, Consumer Reports is going to have an in-depth report on all aspects of back pain in its June issue. For instance, is bed rest the right approach? Does medication help? And what are the top non-drug therapies that actually work?

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