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Sep 30, 2017

Exercise Lowers Mortality Risk in Patients with Heart Disease

Researchers found that physical activity was most beneficial in those who were sedentary and had the highest cardiovascular risk.

The more exercise the better for patients living with heart disease, based on a recent study that found just ten minutes of exercise a day reduces mortality risk in heart disease patients.

Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, this study explored the association between exercise and mortality risk in patients with heart disease—the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States. The goal of the study was to see how the duration and type of physical activity impacts outcomes in heart patients.

A total of 15,486 patients with heart disease participated in the study. All completed questionnaires about their physical activity. Participants came from 39 countries and were part of the STABILITY trial, which tested a new drug in patients with existing heart disease.

Through questionnaires, participants reported how much time they spent on various activities each week, including mild exercise (yoga, walking and house work), moderate (fast walking, jogging, dancing or biking) and vigorous physical activity (running, heavy lifting or playing strenuous sports). Researchers then followed participants for nearly 4 years, tracking key outcomes like heart events and death.

After analysis, researchers found that the more exercise participants got, the lower their risk of death was. For example, participants who engaged in as little as 10 minutes a day of brisk walking had 33% lower risk of death than those who had no physical activity. As you might expect, higher-intensity exercise had greater reductions in mortality risk than lower-intensity exercise.

Researchers also found that physical activity was most beneficial in patients that were largely sedentary and had the highest cardiovascular risk, such as older adults, smokers or patients with diabetes.

The take-home message, according to authors, is that some exercise is better than none for patients with heart disease. Findings also suggest that the more physical activity patients with heart disease get the better, as it significantly reduces risk of death.

Current guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 60–75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week to reduce risk for heart disease. While these recommendations are similar for patients living with heart disease, exercise can be challenging for patients with symptoms like shortness of breath. However, findings reinforce that even small amounts of exercise can improve outcomes for patients with heart disease, especially those with highest cardiovascular risk.

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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