‘Stop prescribing medication and start learning more about exercise’. This is the message being delivered to doctors around the country after a study found millions patients are being over-medicated.
The study, by Bond University, says doctors who prescribe medications for heart disease, low back pain, diabetes and other chronic illnesses are failing to realise that many cases with these conditions can be treated with targeted exercises instead.
Study author Dr Tammy Hoffmann, of Bond University, said: “Many doctors and their patients aren’t aware that exercise is a treatment for these chronic conditions and can provide as much benefit as drugs or surgery, typically with fewer harms.”
Scientists who took part in the study say doctors are under-prescribing exercise, which is causing patients to heavily rely on medication instead.
They say exercise often has the same benefits as surgery and drugs, with less health risks and that many doctors don’t understand the importance of exercise as a treatment option.
“Unless clinicians can access sufficient details about exercise interventions to prescribe them, they either guess at how to use them or do not use them at all,” study author Dr Tammy Hoffmann said.
The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, specified certain exercises to help patients by disease type.
People suffering osteoarthritis of the knee or hip should do exercises that focus on muscle strengthening, aerobic and range-of-motion, which help alleviate pain and improve function.
Those with low back pain, should undergo individually supervised exercise sessions with a physiotherapist for eight to 12 weeks, as well as partaking in home-based exercises.
Anyone at risk of a fall, should take part in supervised group or individual exercises by a physiotherapist or doctor to improve balance, strength and coordination.
Lastly, the study says patients with diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease and heart failure should be prescribed exercises by doctors with specialised training.