We often hear about the value of healthy eating and exercise for heart health (and weight management, and much more). However, what may be questionable about such suggestions is the range of exercise that is most beneficial. Sure, any amount of physical activity is going to be good for the body, but what is needed to support cardiovascular health and other vital functions? A new study found in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, has provided some insight that we can use to improve patient outcomes.
The study published in this journal sought to investigate the correlation between a woman’s level of physical activity and her mortality risk. The assessment tool for physical activity was an accelerometer, a device that is worn daily to track levels of physical movement. This device is more reliable than self-reporting, according to researchers.
Participants in the study were observed for approximately 2 years, during which their accelerometers were worn on the hip for week-long periods to track activity. Additionally, data was collected from more than 17,000 women who participated in the Women’s Health Study by Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The women in the most recent study were an average of 72-years of age. Their daily activity averaged 28 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise. Common activities included swimming, jogging, and brisk walking. In contrast to this short period of more strenuous physical activity, the majority of participants’ time was spent in light activity or sedentary activities.
At the conclusion of the study, 207 of the women involved in this research had died. What researchers were able to extract from their observations, though, was that the mortality risk among women who spend more time in moderate to vigorous physical activity was significantly lower than the women who were more sedentary in their lifestyle. The suggestion, then, from this body of research was that higher intensity of physical activity proved more valuable than light exercise such as walking.
The current guidelines for physical activity recommend 150 minutes, just over two hours per week, of moderate to vigorous exercise. Engaging in brisk walking or a gentle jog for this period has demonstrated some benefits, including greater heart health, better weight management, and improved mood.
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