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Exercise Therapy and Chronic Health Conditions

Exercise is often recommended for people with a single chronic health condition such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes; in fact, it’s proven to be helpful in up to 26 chronic health conditions. But what about using “exercise therapy” for those with multiple health challenges?

University of Southern Denmark researchers conducted a study to determine if “exercise therapy”— programs designed for specific therapeutic goals to restore normal physical function or reduce symptoms—is helpful for people with more than one chronic condition. In the United States, these exercise plans are considered to be medically based fitness programs and can be designed by fitness pros who have relevant additional training.

Researchers evaluated 23 studies from 17 nations with more than 3,300 subjects. Data analysis showed that exercise therapy improved quality of life and physical function and reduced depression and anxiety. And it didn’t increase the risk of adverse events or accidents.

What do study authors recommend? Exercise programs that include both cardiovascular and resistance training, performed at least two to three times a week, can be considered as a treatment option for people with multiple chronic conditions.

The study is available in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2021; 55 [18].