Death by effectiveness: Exercise as medicine caught in the efficacy trap!

Chris Beedie, Steven Mann, Alfonso Jimenez, Lynne Kennedy, Andrew M Lane, Sarah Domone, Stephen Wilson, Greg Whyte

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Sport and Exercise Medicine (SEM) has had a good run. For a while it was the low-cost magic bullet. With efficacy demonstrated in study after study, the conclusion was clear: ‘Exercise is Medicine’, a potential public health panacea.

Sadly, the early promise waned. While we continue to be bombarded by original research and reviews extoling the efficacy of exercise, there is an apparent dearth of evidence of its effectiveness. This fact is highlighted in 2014 reports from the UK Government1 and Public Health England.2

It is often argued that the major challenge to the effectiveness of exercise is adherence. Adherence to exercise, variously reported at between 40% and 50%3 is no lower than that reported for drugs.4 However, while there is general confidence that licensed drugs are effective when taken, reports cited above1 ,2 suggest that this confidence does not currently extend to exercise.

Confidence in drugs results from their demonstrating efficacy and effectiveness in clinical trials. Efficacy, demonstrated in phases I–III of a trial, refers to “the extent to which a drug …
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-324
JournalBritish Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2015


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