Any Level of Exercise Can Support Heart Health
Here’s what we know about exercise:
• It helps with weight and energy balance
• It improves circulation
• It lowers the risk for a number of diseases
• It boost mental and physical energy
• It improves metabolic health
• When kids exercise regularly, it may improve their gut flora and lower risk for obesity
Unfortunately, the media has recently discussed some small studies that suggest that varying levels of exercise can cause more harm than good.
Some important statistics
• Over the last ten years, overall participation in athletics and sports in the U.S. has nearly doubled.
• In 2012 – 2013, 7.7 million students in the U.S. participated in high school athletic programs.
• In 2014, data suggests that nearly 42 million Americans were joggers or runners.
• In 2013, 47% of marathon finishers were 40 years of age or older.
Data also shows that sometimes exercise efforts can end in disaster. One study reported a 0.75 fatality rate per 100,000 marathon finishers in 2000-2009. Among those who died, six were men, twenty two were women, with a median age of 41.5, and half of them under age 45. A heart attack was the cause of the deaths in 93% of the marathoners who were over age 45.
Based on current guidelines, we don’t have to regularly train for or run marathons in order to be heart healthy. The science suggests that most of us should exercise at a moderate pace for 150 minutes per week, or exercise vigorously for 75 minutes per week. A few recent studies have suggested that high volume aerobic exercise may be “as bad for the heart as no exercise at all.” A number of studies refute these findings. The American College of Cardiology (ACC) Sports and Exercise Cardiology Council reviewed recent research to determine the volume and intensity of aerobic exercise necessary for heart health. One goal was to determine if there is an upper threshold for exercise, to see if cardiovascular disease risk is actually encouraged rather than discouraged.
The simple conclusion was that even a minimal effort like getting up periodically during the day helps to lower cardiovascular (CVD) risk. More significant exercise efforts reduce CVD risk even more. Mortality risk in different populations is dramatically reduced by moderate to vigorous intensity exercise, even if the total duration of time is lower than the guideline recommendations.
Is there an upper limit of exercise that causes harm to heart health? Despite the fact that public media has shared information that suggests that science indicates that some types of exercise can actually harm the heart, there is no clear research to confirm those public announcements. Benefits from certain levels of exercise may level out at a certain point, but there’s no current research to suggest an upper limit of exercise.
The take away message should be that any amount of exercise and any level of exercise can help to reduce heart disease and mortality due to heart disease, compared to not exercising at all. People of all ages should exercise so that they reduce their risk of heart disease.
Doctors and health professionals need to recommend low, moderate and vigorous exercise options to their patients. The public health sector also has to do a better job at highlighting the importance of exercise from youth to adulthood. Most experts suggest that an exercise habit as a child is usually carried into adulthood. The notion of not exercising at all because you are afraid of negative outcomes is a perspective that will actually harm your heart health. Let’s get moving, folks!!!