Boost your exercise intensity to ward off a heart attack

April 16, 2003 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News, Sports Nutrition and Exercise

Boost your exercise intensity to ward off a heart attack

A brisk half-hour walk five days a week might make you healthier, but may not be enough to avoid a premature death from heart disease, British researchers reported this week.

Current UK and U.S. heart guidelines recommend 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity five days a week, but a study of nearly 2,000 middle-aged men suggests that only more-vigorous exercise protects against an untimely end from cardiovascular disease.

Researchers from Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland studied 1,975 Welsh men aged 45 to 59, none of whom had signs of heart disease at the beginning of the study. They followed the men for 11 years and correlated their leisure-time physical activity with deaths from cardiovascular conditions.

The researchers graded exercise according to intensity. Light activities included walking, bowling or sailing; moderate activities included golf and dancing; and vigorous activities included climbing stairs, swimming and jogging.

Men with the lowest leisure-time exercise levels were more likely to die during the study, the researchers found. The heaviest levels of physical activity were associated with the lowest rates of death from all causes and heart disease. But moderate and light levels of regular exercise had no consistent impact on death rates.

Vigorous physical activity, such as climbing stairs, hiking, jogging, swimming, tennis, badminton, squash and heavy digging, may independently prevent premature death, principally from cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease in middle aged men who have no evidence of pre-existing coronary heart disease.

Closer analysis showed that it was the intensity of exercise, rather than the number of calories burned, that seemed to be the crucial factor.

The few men who regularly engaged in the highest levels of heavy exercise were 47% less likely to die early and 62% less likely to die of heart disease. But men who engaged in the highest levels of light to moderate exercise were not protected from the risk of an early death.

While we recognize that vigorous activity will provide maximum cardiac protection and promote physical fitness, there is evidence that 'five times 30 minutes' moderate-intensity activity still appears to provide health benefits.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.