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People living with two or more chronic diseases – a condition known as multimorbidity – are more likely to take multiple medications, have more frequent and longer hospital stays, and die prematurely than those with only one chronic disease. Multimorbidity is common among older adults.60240-2/fulltext) Findings from a recent meta-analysis suggest that exercise benefits people with multimorbidity.

Evidence indicates that exercise increases muscle strength, improves cardiovascular and metabolic health, and boosts mood by reducing visceral fat mass and activating a wide range of anti-inflammatory processes in the body. A key feature of many chronic diseases is inflammation, but exercise may disrupt inflammation to elicit its beneficial effects.

The authors of the meta-analysis reviewed data from 23 randomized controlled studies that investigated the health effects of exercise in people with multimorbidity, defined as having two or more chronic health conditions (arthritis of the knee or hip, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, depression, heart failure, ischemic heart disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The study participants were between the ages of 50 and 80 years. The average duration of the studies was 12 weeks and included a variety of exercise protocols, including aquatic exercise, strength training, aerobic training, and tai chi, performed two to three times per week.

The analysis revealed that exercise therapy interventions improved physical fitness (determined by walking distance and speed) and decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression, especially among younger adults. The interventions didn’t increase knee, arm, or back pain, or falls and fatigue. Study participants who engaged in regular exercise were less likely to be hospitalized, develop pneumonia, or experience extreme fatigue.

These findings suggest that exercise exerts beneficial effects on people with multimorbidity and serves as a viable option in managing their conditions.

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