Study: For optimal heart health, Americans should double or even quadruple the amount of exercising they’re doing. The findings challenge the notion of a 30-minutes-a-day magic number for exercise.
If you're among of the millions of Americans who dutifully carve out 30 minutes a day for the moderate-intensity exercise recommended by experts based on the the idea that you're doing all that you can for your heart, you're in for some disappointing news.
A new analysis published Monday in the journal Circulation finds that that amount of activity just might not be good enough.
For the paper, researchers reviewed 12 previous studies involving 370,460 men and women with varying levels of physical activity. Over a mean followup time of 15 years, this group experienced 20,203 heart failure events. Each of the participants self-reported their daily activities which allowed the team to estimate the amount of exercise they were doing.
They found that those following the 30-minutes-a-day guidelines issued by the American Heart Association had “modest reductions” in heart failure risk compared to those who did not work out at all.
But those who did twice and four times as much exercise experienced “a substantial risk reduction" of 20 and 35 percent respectively.
The findings challenge the notion of a 30-minutes-a-day magic number for exercise. Instead, research found that physical activity and heart failure may be what they called "dose-dependent," meaning that higher levels of physical activity appeared to be linked to a lower risk of heart failure. That association appeared to hold across age groups, gender and race.
Jarett D. Berry, senior author of the study and an associate professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, said that the study shows that physicians and health policy-makers should consider making stronger recommendations for higher amounts of physical activity to prevent heart failure.
Heart failure, which occurs when the heart cannot supply enough blood to the body, affects over 5.1 million adults in the country, and results in health-care costs of over $30 billion per year. The American Heart Association reports that it accounts for “a significant proportion” of hospitalizations and deaths of older Americans. Officials suggest that this “growing epidemic” is expected to increase by 25 percent from 2010 to 2030. “Heart failure is a big public health concern and in contrast to the dramatic reduction in coronary disease that we’ve seen in the population, the incidence of heart failure remains relatively unchanged,” Berry said.
American Heart Association guidelines recommend middle-aged adults engage in at least two hours and 30 minutes per week of exercise like brisk walking. Berry said walking 30 minutes a day for instance may not be enough for a middle-aged person with hypertension, which presents an increased risk of getting heart failure. Those with diabetes or a failing history of heart failure would also benefit from talking with their doctors about increased physical activity.
Ambarish Pandey, the study’s lead author and a cardiology fellow at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, said the study was limited in its ability to compare the relationship of heart failure risk with different types of physical activity, as well as in differentiating between work-related physical activity versus exercise for leisure.
“If someone runs to their work, that doesn’t count as leisure,” Pandey explained. “That counts as occupational. If someone is an exercise trainer, then he will be more active at his workplace and that may not be accounted for in the leisure activity that we have looked at.”