For Better Heart Health Exercise Harder, Not Longer

  • Share
  • Read Later
David Madison / Getty Images

The general advice for most Americans is: Get more exercise. But the question is what kind of exercise, how intensely and for how long?

A new study suggests that for improvements in cardiovascular health, you should pick up the pace. More intense exercise (brisk walking) was better than longer bouts of lower-intensity activity (leisurely walking) at reducing people’s chances of developing risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, researchers found.

Using data from the Copenhagen City Heart Study, Danish researchers followed more than 10,000 adults ages 21 to 98 from Copenhagen, Denmark, for up to 10 years. The researchers looked specifically at participants’ likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome — a cluster of cardiovascular risk factors, including obesity, high triglycerides, low levels of HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.

(MORE: For More Weight Loss, Exercise Less?)

At the beginning of the study, the participants filled out questionnaires detailing their physical activity, and had their height and body weight assessed. About 21% of women and 27% of men were classified as having metabolic syndrome at the start.

Over 10 years of follow-up, people who reported walking briskly or jogging for exercise cut their risk of metabolic syndrome by nearly half. In comparison, people who walked slowly for exercise — even up to an hour a day — so no preventive benefit.

By the end of the study, an additional 15% of participants had developed metabolic syndrome and their risk depended on their level of activity. Among sedentary participants, 19% had metabolic syndrome, compared with 12% among busier bodies who participated in higher intensity physical activity.

The findings fall generally in line with those of another Danish study published last month reporting that there’s a sweet spot of exercise when it comes to weight loss: specifically, longer exercise is not necessarily better. The current study didn’t look at the participants’ diet, however, which also plays a significant role in helping people maintain a healthy weight and stave off heart disease and diabetes.

(MORE: We Tried This: Fast And Furious Tabata)

But the main takeaway is that any exercise is better than nothing. Going for long, leisurely walks is unquestionably better for health than sitting on teh couch for an hour. “Even gardening, if it creates a sweat and is done two to four [hours] a week, can help lower risk for diabetes and heart disease,” Dr. Neeru Jayanthi, medical director of primary care sports medicine at Loyola University Health System, in Maywood, Ill., told WebMD.

Still, the current study highlights intensity as a game changer when it comes to reducing metabolic syndrome risk. The authors conclude that if further studies confirm the heart healthy benefits of fast walking, it “may represent a low-cost intervention with minimal side effects and numerous significant health benefits.”

The study was published in the journal BMJ Open.

MORE: 5 Common Mistakes You’re Making at the Gym

8 comments
zenithsage
zenithsage

This would have been an excellent article if she could spell.

Emma Ward
Emma Ward

Along with Exercise  also needed to take natural supplements .like Psyllium, VeDHA-3 and Organic Natural Stevia...this will surely help reducing weight and cut the risks of diabetes... check out few brands...for psyllium..check out metamucil, fibafit, fibafit caps , Fibusk (very competitive in pricing)....for Stevia..Zyvia is great, its organic as well, truvia is good...for VeDHA-3, for great quality product, i think VeDHA-3 stands out..we have been consuming all these natural supplements everyday..it works very well and quality is superior as well..

SADHU-VEDANT-MUNI
SADHU-VEDANT-MUNI

really exercises and diets   play vital role for health building. at present i want to say about the diet, we are not getting balanced diets,secondly fast foods cultures and mostly using of chemicals in the foods are dangerous and harmful for health. a big question is before us how to obtain free chemicals foods. we are not the producers, we are buyers so we are totally dependent on producers.fast foods are most unhygienic and chemical based are hazardous to health. balanced diets, fruits and vegetables are not freely available.at present non veges, eggs, meats are freely available. these nonveges are also most dangerous and inviting many incurable diseases. why people are taking non veges, eggs, meats. they are not the best sources of energies and health building. these should be boycotted and must teach to the people of the advantages and disadvantages of meats, eggs, and fishes, every day scientists are disclosing the harms of these. but people are taking knowingly.

secondly exercises are many types . but no body knows the quantity of exercises.according to Ayurveda the quantity of the exercise that if you get sweating during the exercise so do just of the half the sweating state. if one who does excess  it is harmful for the health also. moderate and bearable exercises are better for the health.

 if we follow the diets and exercises accordingly so we can be benefited more. IN AYURVEDA  the daily regime of the individual , social, community health elaborately  described. i hope this will some light of health building.

Jordan Totty
Jordan Totty

Arghhh, Weight Loss :( It's so hard, I've tried like everything under the sun to lose this excess body weight but its soooo hard. Anyone looked into the "Fat Loss Factor"? I was reading a review about it on weightproductsreviewed.com and it looks quite promising.If anyone has any experience with it, please email me :)

RobertSF
RobertSF

Yes, exercise harder, but do it at your pace. Exercise is not supposed to hurt. It's not even supposed to wear you out. If you feel the anxiety that comes from not getting enough oxygen, SLOW DOWN! Focus on your breathing. Good exercise is when you're working at "cruising speeds." You feel the cycle of air in and out of your lungs, but you also feel that you could continue it forever, without gasping and choking.

Mark Steadman
Mark Steadman

Please correct your spelling (teh) and grammar errors (-- so no preventive benefit).  Who edits these things, anyway?  This is indicative of lower education standards in the US.

EnrigueRuiz
EnrigueRuiz

@SADHU-VEDANT-MUNI If you want your posts read, use proper punctuation. It's much easier to read and easier on the mind. Stopped reading your post after the first couple of lines.

Craig Boren
Craig Boren

I think what Mark was referring to in his pointing out the aforementioned grammatical error in the phrase "so no preventive benefit" was that it should have been "saw no preventative benefit".