Background: Due to the continuing increase of the elderly population in the western
countries, the prevalence of the main chronic diseases (obesity, type 2 diabetes and related
metabolic disorders, arterial hypertension, vascular damage due to atherosclerotic process,
cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, neurodegenerative diseases, chronic
kidney disease, immune-mediated diseases) is increasing. There is incontrovertible evidence
that regular physical activity contributes to the primary and secondary prevention of several
chronic diseases and is associated with a reduced risk of premature death.
Methods: In this review the most prevalent chronic pathologic conditions are discussed, how
regular exercise may provide benefits for prevention and/or treatment of these diseases and
are graphically described by means of various figures the main biological mechanisms
through which exercise exerts its beneficial effects known to date.
Results: Specific interventions aimed to implement physical activity levels of the general
population are of certain efficacy both for primary and secondary prevention of the major chronic diseases and
constitutes an excellent cost/effective tool to improve the health status of different categories of patients.
Conclusion: Exercise represents a unique case in which a single intervention is useful against a broad range of
diseases and risk factors, this knowledge should lead to an ever-increasing use of this lifestyle change.