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Sep 02, 2011

Lowering Heart Disease Risk with Exercise

The more you exercise, the greater the health benefits.

Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for death worldwide, affecting both low- and high-income countries. It can increase risk for a variety of health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and increases risk for death. Accordingly, many organizations such as the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have established simple guidelines for people of all ages to follow to help promote health. Generally, it is recommended that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week — equivalent to 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. But what about adults engaging in more or less physical activity? Do they achieve drastically different health benefits?

A recent study published in Circulation reported on different amounts of physical activity and how it affects risk for heart disease. While past studies have evaluated the differences between low, moderate and high intensities of physical activity, this research study focused on the effect of the length of physical activity on cardiovascular health, rather than the intensity.

After analyzing over 33 studies, researchers found that those participating in 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week reduced their risk for heart disease by 14%, and those participating in 300 minutes of physical activity reduced their risk for heart disease by 20%, in comparison with adults engaging in no physical activity. For those exercising more than 300 minutes each week, their risk for heart disease was even lower than 20%, while those engaging in some physical activity (lower than 150 minutes/week) still experienced significant risk reduction in comparison with those reporting no activity.

Study findings suggest that all physical activity promotes cardiovascular health and reduces risk for heart disease. However, the more physical activity that adults engage in on a regular basis, the greater the health benefits. So while some activity is better than none, adults should strive toward exercising at least 150 minutes each week, if not more, to achieve the greatest cardiovascular benefits.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is the difference between physical activity and exercise?
  • Physical activity is any type of movement that causes your muscles to exert energy. Exercise, on the other hand, is a planned and repetitive movement sustained for a prolonged period of time. Both physical activity and exercise get the body moving, helping to burn fat and promote good health.
  • How does physical activity improve heart health?

  • Physical activity promotes many health benefits, such as weight control, blood pressure reduction and stress reduction. Together, these health benefits translate to improved cardiovascular health.

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