We all know that aerobic exercise helps decrease heart disease, and here is part of why that is: As you breathe more deeply, exercise gets the blood pumping through the body at a faster rate. This increases production in the arteries (the arterial endothelium, to be exact) of a substance called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is what helps relax blood vessels, inhibits the formation of blood clots and holds back the development of the plaques in arteries that are associated with blockages and consequent heart disease. Also, faster-flowing blood helps arteries resist the formation of new blockages. So exercise in order to produce more nitric oxide!
A recent comparison of drugs and exercise for heart disease found there was no difference between the effects of exercise or drugs in preventing heart failure, stroke, coronary heart disease and diabetes.1 One of the conclusions drawn by the media2 upon the publication of that study was that since drugs and exercise seemed to have equal impact, scientists should change the way they structure studies so exercise is always included as a comparison.
Take a second to think about the side effect profile of both choices: exercise vs. medications. I’ll take exercise any day!
1. Naci H, Ioannidis JP. Comparative effectiveness of exercise and drug interventions on mortality outcomes: metaepidemiological study. BMJ 2013;347:f5577