Exercising for Heart Health

February 21, 2021

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How Physical Activity Can Prevent Cardiovascular Disease 

We have always heard the general recommendation to get physical activity for long-term heart health; but there is always the question, how much exercise should we be getting to reap the benefits for our heart health?  

Recently, the University of Oxford published results from a study that included more than 90,000 participants. The study attempted to answer the question “how much exercise do you need to have long-term heart health benefits”?  

Over the course of a 7-day period, participants wore a fitness tracking device (think a Fitbit or Garmin watch) and were instructed to engage in their normal cardiovascular physical activities. This could be running, swimming, dancing, walking, or really anything that gets the muscles working and the blood pumping. Given the large number of participants, there was a wide variety of activity time seen. Activity time ranged from only a few minutes a day to even hours per day. Once all of this data was collected by researchers, medical professionals followed the cardiovascular health of the participants over five years. Essentially, they took blood work and checked medical records to see who developed cardiovascular disease or had cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.  

At the conclusion of the study, the researchers were able to report that the more time that people spent getting moderate to vigorous physical activity (such as a brisk walk or running), the less likely they were to develop cardiovascular disease or have a cardiovascular event. Of course this makes perfect sense, but the researchers found something very interesting.  

The researchers found that there was no threshold for exercise time and reduced risk for cardiac health. Previously, evidence from different studies suggests that there comes a point in time where no matter how long you run, walk, or swim each week after a certain point of time; the cardiovascular benefit will be the same. This is the threshold.  

Without a threshold, this means that the people who engage in aerobic exercise for 2 hours per week will be less likely to develop cardiac issues later in life; but people who engage in aerobic exercise for 3 hours per week will be even less likely to develop some of those cardiac issues.  

Regardless of whether you prefer to run, walk, dance, skip, swim, or bike, it is clear that there is a lot of benefit for your overall physical and emotional wellbeing. To learn more about this super cool study, click here!  

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