Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, published a research study this week that concluded that there is an inverse relationship between Physical Activity (PA) and Heart Failure (HF) risk. In particular, it noted that PA in excess of the minimum amount recommended per day may be required for more substantial reductions in HF risk.
Current American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines recommend at least 150 mins/week of moderate intensity aerobic PA. Participants in the study who met the minimum guideline had a 10% lower risk of HF compared to those with no PA. The magnitude of the risk reduction was substantially greater among participants with significantly higher levels of PA. For example, participants who engaged in PA at twice the basic guideline recommended level had a 19% lower risk of HF, while those who engaged in four times the recommended level had a 35% lower risk of HF.
“Walking 30 minutes a day as recommended in the U.S. physical activity guidelines may not be good enough — significantly more physical activity may be necessary to reduce the risk of heart failure,” said senior study author Dr. Jarett Berry. “If you look at the general population, we’ve had tremendous success in reducing coronary heart disease over the last 30 years. But heart failure rates have not declined enough. The findings from the present study suggest that higher levels of physical activity may help combat this growing burden of heart failure.”
A recent government survey indicated that only about 20% of the U.S. population achieves the goal of 150 minutes per week. And so if you fell into that category, you were probably feeling pretty good about yourself.
Now this new research is suggesting that 150 minutes per week is not sufficient, we’ve got to double, or even quadruple, that amount!
If 80% of the population was having trouble with the original guidelines, I don’t think this new study will provide motivation for those individuals to begin exercising more. It could, in fact, have the opposite effect.
People may just see those new guidelines and think “well I don’t have the time to exercise an hour per day, and if I’m not getting much benefit from exercising less than that, then why should I bother doing any exercise at all?”
And such a response is not a healthy one.
I think the media has focused on the study recommendations of one to two hours per day of exercise, that they have failed to point out that exercising for 30 minutes per day, five days per week is beneficial, offering a 10% lower risk of Heart Failure compared to those with no Physical Activity.
What I have found useful is to slowly ease into increasing my exercise time, adding 5 extra minutes every other day, and using one of my weekend days for an extra long session.
In addition, doubling or quadrupling the minimum guideline does not have to be done strictly on the basis of time. For example, increasing a daily workout from 30 to 45 minutes while also increasing the intensity level of the workout, could be the equivalent of doubling the 30 minutes per day guideline.
Once again, however, increasing the intensity, just like increasing the time, should be done gradually.
What you are trying to do is establish life-long habits, and so you should set long-term goals. For example, if you just add five minutes each month to your daily workout, by the end of the year you will have added 60 minutes per day.
And by doing so, you should be able to reap the health and fitness rewards indicated in this newest study.
The key, like in most things, is getting started and staying consistent.
I just hope a study doesn’t come out that says we need to work double the standard 40 hours per week in order to have a fulfilling career. I think I’d rather exercise 16 hours per day…