Even a small dose of exercise can cut heart disease risk

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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A little exercise goes a long way for cutting heart risks

If you want to cut your chances of heart disease, even a little bit of exercise helps, say researchers. That’s the conclusion of an analysis from investigators who, for the first time, looked at relative risk of coronary heart disease, which can be lowered with even small doses of exercise and activity.

Current guidelines for exercise and activity advocate at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate exercise a week. But, in a quantitative analysis, researchers found any exercise is better than none for heart health.

The study is the first to look at how much physical activity people are getting and how it impacts heart disease.

According to Jacob Sattelmair, ScD, of the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, the study differs from past research because it shows how various levels of exercise reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.

As expected, more exercise is better. The risk of blocked arteries that cause heart attack goes down in proportion to time spent exercising.

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In the study, researchers looked at 3000 studies; choosing 33 of those for their analysis. In nine of the studies, a quantitative analysis measured leisure time activity.

"Early studies broke people into groups such as active and sedentary. More recent studies have begun to assess the actual amount of physical activity people are getting and how that relates to their risk of heart disease”, said Sattelmair.

The study published in the journal Circulation, still show more exercise is better, but compared to being sedentary, even a little exercise can be cardio protective.

People who engage in 150 minutes of moderate intensity leisure time activity can cut heart disease risk by 14 percent, compared to couch potatoes. Boosting exercise to 300 minutes lowers the risk even more.

Sattelmair says, "The overall findings of the study corroborate federal guidelines - even a little bit of exercise is good, but more is better – 150 minutes of exercise per week is beneficial, 300 minutes per week will give even more benefits.” The benefits of exercise for lowering heart disease risk were stronger for women than men, also found in the study.

The study found, for the first time, a little dose of exercise is better than none for maintaining a healthy heart. Adding more exercise progressively can reduce the chances of heart disease up to 14 percent with 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week.

Circulation: doi: 10.1161/
Dose Response Between Physical Activity and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease
Jacob Sattelmair, MSc, et al.; August 1 2011

Image credit: Morguefile

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Thanks for information