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Jan 18, 2016

Too Little Exercise Remains a Prime Concern for Americans

Experts reaffirm that health benefits from exercise far outweigh risks.

Too much exercise is seldom a problem for most Americans, according to a recent paper that reaffirms the heart-health benefits associated with any and all types of physical activity.

Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, this paper was a response to mixed messages in the media about the risks and benefits of exercise. While physical activity is a cornerstone of good health, recent studies have raised concerns about potential risks of too much exercise. Many worry that the mixed messages may discourage Americans from getting the amount of physical activity needed to promote good health.

To address this issue, experts reviewed the latest evidence on physical activity and heart health. Based on a thorough assessment, experts conclude that the benefits of exercise far outweigh the risks for nearly all Americans.

In this paper (titled “Exercise at the Extremes: The Amount of Exercise to Reduce Cardiovascular Events”) experts offer a wealth of evidence on the benefits of exercise in both healthy individuals and those living with heart disease. On the whole, studies continue to show that engaging in any physical activity helps prevent heart disease and reduce risk of death compared to no exercise at all. In fact, even increasing time spent standing versus sitting helps reduce risk of death. Overall, the more physical activity individuals get, the lower their risk for heart disease.

Evidence also shows that physical activity, especially through cardiac rehabilitation programs, helps significantly boost outcomes in patients living with heart disease. For heart patients, physical activity helps build muscle, increase fitness level and reduce risk for future heart events. However, experts highlight the importance of working with health care providers to create exercise plans that are both safe and effective for each patient.

So why the recent concern about too much exercise? As authors explain, although exercise benefits the majority of Americans, a small number of individuals have a genetic predisposition for heart disease. Some patients may also have existing heart conditions that they’re unaware of. In these patients, vigorous exercise may trigger heart events or serious heart conditions.

However, experts attest that these scenarios are very rare and only apply to a very small number of individuals. In most developed countries like the United States, too little—not too much—exercise remains our biggest concern.

Read the full article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How much exercise do I need?
  • Regular physical activity is important for both children and adults. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans:

    • Children and adolescents should get 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily.
    • Optimum exercise levels for adults includes:
      • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (or a combination of the two) each week.
      • Activity spread across the week with periods of aerobic exercise of at least 10 minutes at a time.
      • Muscle strengthening activities 2 or more days a week.
  • What are the benefits of physical activity?
  • Regular physical activity has a wealth of benefits, such as reducing risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, cancer and heart disease. Exercise can also increase energy, improve mood, and promote better sleep. Regular physical activity is a key component of a healthy lifestyle.

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