Before you reach for a pill to help fix what ails you, it might be better to reach for your gym gear. Research shows that for some conditions, exercise might work just as well as drugs and surgery, and with fewer side effects. So why aren’t doctors prescribing it more often?

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found nearly one in 10 participants were able to give up Type 2 diabetes medication altogether, after two years on a program that included exercise and dietary changes.

Exercise has also been shown to be a very effective tool against other chronic conditions.

For chronic lower back pain new guidelines from the American College of Physicians say you should try non-drug therapies, including exercise, before you pop a pill.

For arthritis sufferers: weight training can build muscle strength thereby reducing pressure on joints and improving stability. But it’s important to learn how to use weights correctly from a certified trainer or a physical therapist to avoid worsening joint pain.

Strength training can also help people with diabetes. The more muscle you have the less likely you are to store extra glucose as fat.

But it’s important for those with diabetes to have some food before working out. And those on insulin should discuss the best time to exercise with their doctor. Both steps help avoid a potentially dangerous drop in blood sugar.

So how much exercise are we talking about?

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines say to get the maximum benefits, adults should get 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week. That should be done in bouts of 10 minutes or more.