MONDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Take the stairs instead of
the elevator. Go for a walk after dinner. Play tag with your kids
at the park.
New research shows that even small amounts of exercise -- about
150 minutes, or 2.5 hours, of moderate activity a week -- can
reduce the risk of heart disease by about 14 percent.
Those who did more -- about 300 minutes a week, or five hours --
reduced their risk of heart disease, including heart attacks,
angina and bypass surgeries, by 20 percent compared to people who
did no exercise, the study found.
"Some physical activity is better than none, and more is better," said lead study author Jacob Sattelmair, who was a doctoral candidate at Harvard University School of Public Health, Boston, when he conducted the research.
The benefits of even more exercise continue to add up. People
who reported exercising for 750 minutes a week, or 12.5 hours --
had a 25 percent reduced risk of heart disease. But that's many
more hours of working out for only a small additional risk
reduction, Sattelmair noted.
"The biggest bang for your buck is at the lower ends of physical activity," said Sattelmair, now director of research and strategy at Dossia, an organization in Cambridge, Mass., whose goal is to improve employee health and health care, while reducing health care costs. "If you went from none to 2.5 hours a week, the relative benefit is more than if you went from, say, 5 to 7.5 hours a week."
In the study, published online Aug. 1 in
Circulation, Sattelmair and colleagues analyzed the results of 33 studies that assessed the health benefits of exercise.
For reasons researchers aren't sure of, women saw even more
protective benefits from exercise than men, although this could
have been a quirk of the statistics, they said.
While 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week is the
minimum goal based on current U.S. guidelines, they found even
people who did less than that (75 minutes weekly) had a decreased
risk of heart disease compared to total coach potatoes.
"If you are doing nothing, do something. And if you are doing something, say, walking 10 or 15 minutes, two to three times a week, do more," said Barry Franklin, director of the preventive cardiology program at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., and an American Heart Association spokesman.
Moderate physical activity includes walking briskly, gardening,
playing doubles tennis or dancing. Vigorous activity includes
jogging, swimming laps, hiking uphill or jumping rope, although
researchers did not analyze whether or not exercising vigorously
was any better than moderate exercise for improving heart
Prior research has pointed to myriad benefits of physical
activity, Franklin said. Getting up and moving strengthens the
heart and the lungs.
Physically fit people also tend to have lower blood pressure and
resting heart rate, which puts less demand on the heart. Exercise
can increase insulin sensitivity, which is important in the
prevention of diabetes, and can modestly boost HDL ("good")
Other studies suggest that exercise reduces inflammatory markers
that may play a role in triggering heart attacks; may reduce the
likelihood of clots that lead to heart attacks and stroke; and
decreases the risk of life-threatening arrhythmias (irregular heart
Yet physical activity, of course, isn't the sole key to
preventing heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United
States. Eating a healthy diet, maintaining a normal body weight,
avoiding high levels of stress, and keeping blood pressure and
cholesterol levels in a healthy range all play a role, he
Just as important as an exercise program is getting physical
activity while going about your day, Franklin said. Recent research
has suggested that it's not only structured exercise classes or
sessions, but the incidental exercise you get when you walk around
the mall, go up and down the stairs, clean the house, or mow the
lawn that matters for health.
"In addition to your structured exercise program, where you drive to the gym and walk on the treadmill, disguised exercise can also have a profound impact on your cardiovascular risk," Franklin said. "The take-home message is: Move more. Sit less."
American Academy of Family Physicians has tips for
starting an exercise program.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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