Exercise as a Polypill for Chronic Diseases

Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2015;135:497-526. doi: 10.1016/bs.pmbts.2015.07.019. Epub 2015 Aug 14.


Exercise may be described as a polypill to prevent and/or treat almost every chronic disease, with obvious benefits such as its low cost and practical lack of adverse effects. Implementing physical activity interventions in public health is therefore a goal at the medical, social, and economic levels. This chapter describes the importance of health promotion through physical activity and discusses the impacts of exercise on the most prevalent chronic diseases, namely metabolic syndrome-related disorders, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. For each of these chronic conditions, we discuss the epidemiological evidence supporting a beneficial role of exercise, provide guidelines for exercise prescription, and describe the biological mechanisms whereby exercise exerts its modulatory effects.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Cancer; Chronic diseases; Coronary heart disease; Dyslipidemia; Hypertension; Metabolic syndrome; Obesity; Physical activity; Type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease / therapy*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity