More is not always better. Certainly when it comes to salt, added sugars, and unhealthy fats, we need to control how much and how often we indulge. Even exercise can become a foe if we overdo it, resulting in stress fractures or diminished returns. BUT, when it comes to certain health conditions, you do want to engage with exercise, and in the case of reducing the risk of heart failure you may want to increase your exercise efforts.
What is heart failure?
Heart failure occurs when the heart is not able to provide sufficient amounts of oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. The heart muscle in this case has been weakened, so it no longer pumps blood efficiently. Typical symptoms of early heart failure are increasing shortness of breath (especially on exertion), coughing or wheezing, build-up of fluid or edema, and an elevated heart rate. Ultimately, the person will experience a reduced ability to exercise. Causes or risk factors for this disease include aging, and having prior heart disease like coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, or a prior heart attack.
What are the current minimum daily exercise recommendations?
Current minimum recommendations for physical activity are 30 minutes of heart-rate elevating exercise most days of the week, or a total of 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly. This minimum guideline was really established to get Americans moving, and it was based on studies that suggested that at least 30 minutes of exercise daily was necessary to support basic overall health. Of course, most experts will tell you that if you’re trying to lose weight, or counter the many minutes that you probably sit daily, more daily minutes of exercise (and a higher degree of intensity) may be necessary. The new study published in the journal Circulation focused exclusively on the specific duration of exercise necessary to lower the risk of heart failure.
What did the new study find?
The study established that doubling the minimum recommendations, or engaging in one hour of moderate exercise daily, could lower the risk of heart failure by 20 percent. Quadruple the minimum established guidelines and engage in two hours of exercise daily, and you lower the risk of heart failure by a whopping 35 percent. The researchers found that the current minimum activity guidelines only offered a modest reduction in the risk of heart failure, hence the new recommendations. Specifically the study found that there was a dose-dependent, inverse link between exercise and heart failure, meaning “the more exercise, the greater a reduction in the risk factor.”
The research data was actually gathered from 12 separate studies done in the U.S. and Europe, involving a collective total of 370,460 subjects who self-reported varying levels of activity at baseline. Over a 15 year period 20,203 heart failure events were diagnosed. The researchers were then able to extrapolate the overall “doses” of exercise that seemed to reduce the risk of heart failure in the subjects. The results suggested that doing twice the minimum 150 minutes offered 20 percent reduced risk; quadruple the minimum dose offered a 35 percent reduction in heart failure risk.
What do the results suggest?
Over the last 30 years there’s been good success at reducing the incidence of coronary artery disease (CAD). Heart failure has not had similar success rates. This study suggests that the general population probably needs to consider a commitment of more than 150 minutes of exercise weekly in order to impact their risk of developing heart failure. We also need to get kids involved in daily exercise and fitness activities. Certainly with the many data reports that reveal just how much the average person sits daily, it seems intuitive that we need to be moving more and engaging with more defined exercise efforts to combat our very sedentary lifestyle. “Use it or lose it” is a good adage when it comes to moving our body and exercising our heart muscle. Now we need to recognize that we may need to move it more often and for longer durations of time!
More on exercise and your heart:
Check out my website
Follow me on Twitter
Follow me on Facebook
Watch my videos