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Regular Vigorous or Moderate Exercise Linked to Lower Risk of Death

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One study suggests that prolonged vigorous or moderate exercise is linked to a lower risk of death. Lucie Wicker/Getty Images
  • Regular exercise is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death. However, there was limited evidence looking at the impact of exercise intensity on these risks.
  • A new analysis of more than 100,000 participants, reviewed over a 30-year follow-up period, has shown that vigorous or moderate exercise is associated with the lowest risk of death.
  • Experts say that taking small steps to move more can help improve your health, and it’s important for people to consider their own unique circumstances and physical ability.

It is well known that physical activity can help you lead a healthier and happier life. People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing several long-term (chronic) conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. Studies show that physical activity also boosts self-esteem and mood, and can also help people get better-quality sleep. However, while getting enough exercise is important, the intensity of the exercise should also be considered.

a recent analysis published in Circulation investigated the link between long-term physical activity intensity and risk of death.

The study found that adults who engaged in two to four times the currently recommended amount of moderate or vigorous physical activity per week had a significantly lower risk of death.

the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity per week and 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week. However, an increasing number of people engage in higher levels of more vigorous exercise to maintain health and improve fitness. For example, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has become increasingly popular.

However, there are concerns about the potentially harmful effects on cardiovascular health of an excessive amount of vigorous physical activity. Although, there are limited and sometimes conflicting evidence to support this.

This new research, conducted by Lee et al., involved analysis of data from 2 large cohorts of participants: the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, collected between 1988 and 2018.

In these cohorts, participants completed questionnaires about their physical activity up to 15 times during the follow-up period. They were asked to report the average number of hours they spent in various activities, such as walking, jogging, running, swimming, cycling, aerobic exercise, playing squash/racquetball, or tennis, as well as recording low-intensity exercise and weight lifting. .

Study author Dr. Dong Hoon Lee explained to Today’s medical news the implications of this research for people who want to increase their own activity levels.

“Our study showed that many people can get significant health benefits from engaging in recommended physical activity (150 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity), so it’s important to stay active. For those seeking the optimal health benefits of exercise, higher levels of activity (2+ times the recommended level) may be targeted.”

-Dr Dong Hoon Lee

The analysis showed that the greatest benefit in reducing the risk of death was seen among people who reported about 150 to 300 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity, 300 to 600 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, or an equivalent combination of the two.

Professor Becca Krukowski of the University of Virginia, who was not involved in the study, explained to Today’s medical news how this research has real-world implications for people looking to improve their own health.

“These results indicate that moderate and vigorous physical activity may have positive benefits for longevity and health. These results are consistent with previous research indicating that 300 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity may be necessary for those who wish to maintain weight loss,” said Prof. Krukowski.

The large study population, long follow-up time, and regularity of data collection (from self-report questionnaires) were considered strengths of the study.

“The authors did a good job of performing sensitivity analyzes that addressed many potential limitations. However, the type of physical activity (moderate or vigorous) was based on self-reported activity categories,” Krukowski said. “For example, cycling was always supposed to be vigorous, but cycling could also be moderate intensity.”

Prof. Catherine A. Sarkisian, Director of the UCLA Value-Based Care Research Consortium, who was also not involved in this research, explained to Today’s medical news that for those who already meet the recommended guidelines of 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity, there appears to be additional benefit from engaging in higher levels of vigorous physical activity (up to 600 minutes of physical activity moderate physical). or 300 minutes of vigorous physical activity).

“We now have even stronger evidence than before that exercising in midlife is likely to help you live longer,” said Professor Sargsian.

In addition, for people who engage in only moderate but never vigorous physical activity, there appears to be an additional benefit to adding 25% of the time doing vigorous physical activity rather than only moderate physical activity.

“If you’re a walker who never breaks a sweat, you can try adding some speed intervals or walking briskly uphill,” said Professor Sarkisian.

However, reviewing the study participants recruited for the study, Professor Sarkisian noted that the studies included mostly non-Latino white people, a major limitation.

“It is very important to note that because this was not a clinical trial, we cannot be sure that it was the exercise itself that caused longer life rather than other factors associated with exercise. It is likely that people who exercise are healthier in other ways that were not measured in this study, so the large effect sizes should be interpreted with caution.”

– Prof. Catherine A. Sargsian

The study findings support current physical activity guidelines and also suggest that higher levels of long-term moderate and vigorous exercise provide the greatest benefit in reducing the risk of death.

However, it is important for people to consider their own unique circumstances and physical ability.

Not everyone can engage in vigorous exercise, but taking small steps to move more can help most people work toward better health.

Consider walking whenever possible instead of driving. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Go out for an extra walk in the evening after dinner.

You can also do other things inside your home, such as gardening, yard work, or washing the car. Try to live as actively as possible, perhaps doing sit-ups in front of the TV or joining a local walking club. These small steps will have a positive impact on your health.

Prof. Krukowski had the following advice for people who want to increase their physical activity levels but aren’t sure where to start:

  • Find a type of physical activity that you enjoy. That way, you’re more likely to stick with it.
  • Some people love to be active in a group (like a cycling group or exercise class), while others prefer to be active alone. Do what works for you.
  • Try to combine physical activity with something you enjoy, like listening to music or podcasts, talking with a friend, or watching your favorite show.

Although increasing exercise levels can sometimes seem overwhelming, it’s important to remember that any extra activity will help.

By doing activities that a person enjoys, they are much more likely to continue doing them.

Ultimately, it is important to find out what works for the individual.

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