Exercising More Than Guidelines Could Extend Lives

Exercising More Than Guidelines Could Extend Lives

A new study suggests that going beyond current guidance on moderate and vigorous physical activity levels may add years to one’s life. Check out the details.

Studies show that adding more physical activity to your life may increase life expectancy.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines recommend exercising for at least 150-300 minutes a week, or 75-150 minutes a week with vigorous exercise to achieve significant health benefits.

The study of 100,000 U.S. adults found that those who performed double the recommended moderate or vigorous physical activity had a lower long-term risk of death.

Adults who reported completing four times the minimum recommended levels of exercise saw no clear incremental mortality benefit. They also did not experience any harm.

Edward Giovannucci, MD, ScD with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public health thinks this study should reassure individuals who like to do a lot of exercises. According to Giovannucci, we are more worried about people who neglect minimal exercising than those who work out regularly.

Studies have linked high-intensity exercises such as marathons and triathlons to coronary artery calcification, pain in the heart, and even sudden cardiac death.

A study out of the Copenhagen City Heart Study suggests a U-shaped association between all-cause mortality and no sporting activity and more than 10 hours of sporting activity weekly.

Most studies suggest harm to people who exercise sporadically, but Dr Giovannucci says those studies used one measurement of physical activity and did not capture people who consistently exercise. His study only looked at people with a consistent long-term history of high-level exercise and found that not harmful.

The study included 116,221 participants who completed a questionnaire on health and leisure-time physical activity, updated every two years.

For the study, 96% of participants were White, and 63% were female. The average age and body mass indexes were 66 years and 26 kg/m2 over 30 years of follow-up. In this time, 47,596 people died.

‘Any effort is worthwhile’

This article found that individuals who exercise a lot have their chance of death from cardiovascular disease and non-CVD death cut by 31% and 15%.

Those who completed two to four times the recommended minimum level of exercise had a 27%-33% lower risk for heart disease and non-CVD illnesses and a 21%-23% lower risk for death.

Higher levels of physical activity do not seem to further lower mortality risk. For example, 300-374 minutes a week of vigorous exercise reduced the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 32%, reduced the risk of dying from any cause by 18%, and reduced the risk of death in general by 22%.

Those who meet the guidelines for moderate exercise had a lower risk of chronic disease, non-chronic disease, or all-cause mortality. They are also less likely to die if they can exercise for at least 150 minutes per week up to 300 minutes per week.

Those who work out 2-4 times the minimum have a lower risk of CVD mortality, non-CVD mortality, and all-cause mortality.

The mortality to 600 min/week of moderate physical activity started to plateau, which shows similar associations to those who commit 300-599 min/week.

Erin Michos, MD, MHS, said the sweet spot seems to be two to four times the recommended levels of physical activity for sedentary lifestyle. Even less than the recommended levels is worthwhile for some mortality reduction.

Those who exercise 20-74 minutes per week have a 19% lower risk of mortality and 13% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality than those who do not exercise.

The AHA recommends that you take at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic exercises, or a combination of both.

Dr Michos, who was not involved with the study, suggests that more is better. They say people should move their targets higher than what the Department of Health and Human Services has already done.

Donna K. Arnett, PhD and former president of the American Heart Association said: we have known for a long time that moderate or intense levels of physical exercise have many benefits like reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.

Research has shown that getting more than 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 150 minutes of vigorous exercise each week can decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. A person's risk of mortality may also be reduced with increased physical activity.

Mix and Match

Dr David Giovannucci made the point that it's not certain that moderate exercise benefits you as much as vigorous exercise.

The study found that people who exercised longer and at a higher intensity had a lower death rate from other causes.

Though some people prefer vigorous exercise, there is no benefit in doing this for more than the recommended amount. Participants improve their heart health equivalently with moderate exercise. If you have only 2-3 hours to exercise, you can do a vigorous two or 3-hour session and get the same benefits as one with less intensity.

When a sensitivity analysis done with adjustment for body mass index, long-term leisure physical activity correlate positively with mortality.

The effects of exercise cannot be isolated from the lowering or maintenance of weight, but even if that is not accomplished, benefits still exist. There are other reasons for this too, one, for example, is better sleep quality.

You can experience health benefits by engaging in physical activity, even if you don't have time to exercise vigorously. Walking and ballroom dancing are moderate activities that provide fitness benefits.

One key thing about all of this is that, for patients who are unable or unwilling to engage in vigorous physical activity, a moderate amount of physical activity can still result in a dramatic risk reduction.

The results of this study were supported by the National Institutes of Health. The authors and Dr Michos report no relevant financial relationships.


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