Exercise Outdoors for Vitamin D, Improved Heart Health
Exercise is one of the most important things that you can do for your health, particularly heart health. But researchers are also discovering other benefits to vigorous physical activity. One surprising finding is that exercise can boost vitamin D levels
Andrea Chomistek and her team at Harvard School of Public Health believes that Vitamin D’s relationship with exercise and heart health is that people are likely to spend more times outdoors, although that aspect was not specifically tested in the study. Chomistek analyzed activity levels in men who were enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Over the course of 10 years, 412 men who had had a heart attack were compared to a control group of 827 men who did not have heart disease.
Overall, those who did vigorous physical activity for three or more hours per week reduced their risk of heart attack by 22%. The exercise was associated with higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol which accounted for 38% of the decreased risk of heart disease. They also had lower levels of hemoglobin A1c (a marker of diabetes risk) and apolipoprotein B (a blood protein) over those who were inactive.
But the most surprising finding of the study was that those who exercised had higher levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D3 is synthesized by humans in the skin when it is exposed to ultraviolet B rays from sunlight. Limited sun exposure is one risk factor for vitamin D deficiency.
It could also be that those who exercise outdoors positively influences other factors of a healthy lifestyle, such as a balanced, varied diet that includes more foods that contain vitamin D such as eggs, low-fat milk and fortified cereals.
Russ Pate, a professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina, says, "This is another reason to be outside more. You get a double benefit. If you're outside, you're more likely to be physically active, which provides a range of health benefits and you get greater sun exposure so have greater vitamin D levels, which carries many health benefits."
The study is published in October’s issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, a journal from the American College of Sports Medicine.
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