The beneficial effects of regular exercise for the promotion of health and cure of diseases have been clearly shown. In this review, we would like to postulate the idea that exercise can be considered as a drug. Exercise causes a myriad of beneficial effects for health, including the promotion of health and lifespan, and these are reviewed in the first section of this paper. Then we deal with the dosing of exercise. As with many drugs, dosing is extremely important to get the beneficial effects of exercise. To this end, the organism adapts to exercise. We review the molecular signalling pathways involved in these adaptations because understanding them is of great importance to be able to prescribe exercise in an appropriate manner. Special attention must be paid to the psychological effects of exercise. These are so powerful that we would like to propose that exercise may be considered as a psychoactive drug. In moderate doses, it causes very pronounced relaxing effects on the majority of the population, but some persons may even become addicted to exercise. Finally, there may be some contraindications to exercise that arise when people are severely ill, and these are described in the final section of the review. Our general conclusion is that exercise is so effective that it should be considered as a drug, but that more attention should be paid to the dosing and to individual variations between patients.
© 2012 The Authors. British Journal of Pharmacology © 2012 The British Pharmacological Society.