While the total amount of exercise is important--more being better--new study findings suggest that turning exercise up a notch in intensity can lower the risk of heart disease in men even further. And running, weight training, rowing and brisk walking seem particularly helpful for heart health, according to the report from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
Increasing total volume of activity, increasing intensity of aerobic exercise from low to moderate and from moderate to high, and adding weight training to the exercise program are among the most effective strategies to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease in men. While many studies have suggested that regular exercise can ward off heart disease, few studies have examined the role of exercise intensity and heart health.
The researchers followed a group of 44,452 men aged 40 to 75 for 12 years. Men who reported running for an hour or more per week were found to have a 42% lower risk of heart disease compared with men who did not run. And men who lifted weights for at least 30 minutes each week had a 23% reduced risk of heart disease compared with those who did not partake in weight training. Those who spent an hour or more each week rowing had an 18% reduced risk of heart disease.
What's more, the researchers note that men who exercised at a moderate or high level had a 6% and 17% lower heart disease risk, respectively, compared with men who engaged in low intensity exercise.
Even a half-hour each day of brisk walking was associated with an 18% decrease in coronary heart disease risk. While studies have had conflicting results on the heart benefits of walking, the investigators found that only the most rapid pace reduced the risk of heart disease.
This study is the first to find a significant reduction in heart attack risk with weight training. More research is needed to address whether inclusion of strength training recommendations for coronary heart disease prevention is warranted.
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