Objectives: The aim of this study was to review studies reporting cost-effectiveness of exercise-based interventions in treatment of various diseases.
Methods: Systematic literature search using several databases. Abstracts initially screened independently by two authors, full-text articles again evaluated by two authors, who decided whether an article should be included. Included were scientifically valid articles describing controlled studies that included an exercise-based intervention in the treatment of an established medical condition, and also reported on the cost-effectiveness of the intervention, or its effect on the utilization of health services. Quality was assessed with an established approach.
Results: A total of 914 articles were identified, of them 151 were obtained for closer review. Sixty-five articles describing sixty-one studies were included. Most (82 percent) were randomized trials. Twenty-eight studies dealt with musculoskeletal disorders, fifteen with cardiology, four with rheumatic diseases, four with pulmonary diseases, three with urinary incontinence, and two with vascular disorders. There was one study each in the fields of oncology, chronic fatigue, endocrinology, psychiatry, and neurology. Exercise interventions in musculoskeletal disorders were deemed to be cost-effective in 54 percent, in cardiology in 60 percent, and in rheumatic diseases in 75 percent of the cases. There was some evidence that exercise might be cost-effective in intermittent claudication, breast cancer patients, diabetes, and schizophrenia.
Conclusions: The number of studies assessing cost-effectiveness of exercise interventions in various diseases is still limited. The results show large variation but suggest that some exercise interventions can be cost-effective. Most convincing evidence was found for rehabilitation of cardiac and back pain patients; however, even in these cases, the evidence was partly contradictory.