This review, published in 2015, summarizes the evidence in support of prescribing exercise as medicine in the treatment of 26 different chronic diseases including metabolic, cardiovascular, pulmonary, and musculoskeletal (MSK) diseases.
Regarding obesity, physical activity by itself was found to decrease weight significantly, although paired with dieting, these results are more effective.
Musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders
Exercise was found to provide short-term benefits to patients with knee osteoarthritis such as reduced pain, improved physical function, and better quality of life.
Lower-back pain is one of the most common MSK pain complaints, affecting up to 80% of adults at least once in their life. A wide range of physical activity can help relieve pain, however, stability exercise in particular is more effective in decreasing pain relative to general exercise.
There is evidence that physical activity can act as a prevention against diabetes in some patients. In addition, there is international consensus that exercise is one of the three cornerstones of diabetes treatment.
Exercise is shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular mortality and hypertension, as well as act as a treatment for heart failure.
Exercise can reduce the rate of hospitalizations for pulmonary diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
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Pedersen, B.K. and Saltin, B. (2015), Exercise as medicine – evidence for prescribing exercise as therapy in 26 different chronic diseases. Scand J Med Sci Sports, 25: 1-72. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.12581