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Irrefutable benefit for exercise to combat heart disease

Current evidence supports the assertion of exercise being a cornerstone therapy in reducing cardiovascular (CV) risk and in the prevention, treatment, and control of hypertension, according to a study published recently in the American Journal of Hypertension.1

The narrative review compares the benefits of different forms and volumes of exercise. High-intensity interval training and isometric resistance training appear to have strong CV protective effects, say the authors, but with limited data in hypertensive people, more work is needed in this area. Screening recommendations, exercise prescriptions, and special considerations are provided as a guide to decrease CV risk among hypertensive people who exercise or wish to begin.

The authors recommend that hypertensive individuals aim to perform moderate intensity aerobic exercise activity for at least 30 minutes on most (preferably all) days of the week in addition to resistance exercises on 2–3 days/week. Professionals with expertise in exercise prescription may provide additional benefit to patients with high CV risk or in whom more intense exercise training is planned, they add.

The authors conclude that, despite lay and media perceptions, CV events associated with exercise are rare and the benefits of regular exercise far outweigh the risks: “Evidence for the benefits of regular exercise is irrefutable and increasing physical activity levels should be a major goal at all levels of health care”.

…group walking cuts risk of life-threatening conditions

Risk of stroke, coronary heart disease, depression and other life-threatening conditions can be reduced through regular outdoor walking in groups, according to research published recently in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.2

The study reveals that people who regularly walk in groups have lower blood pressure, resting heart rate and total cholesterol, as well as reduced body fat and body mass index (BMI).

The team reviewed 42 studies that looked at 1,843 participants in 14 countries, with a combined total of 74,000 hours of group walking. This group included people with obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, as well as healthy participants.

7419601_sResearchers say the findings point to a cost-effective and low-risk way of enhancing overall health. Doctors should recommend joining a walking group as a way of boosting health, they add.

Lead author Mrs Sarah Hanson said: “Our research shows that joining a walking group is one of the best and easiest ways to boost overall health. The benefits are wide ranging – and they go above and beyond making people more physically active. What’s more, people find it relatively easy to stick with this type of exercise regime.”

“The merits of walking – including lowering the recurrence of some cancers – are well known, but these findings show that the dynamics and social cohesion of walking in groups may produce additional advantages,” she added. “People who walk in groups also tend to have a more positive attitude toward physical activity, a shared experience of wellness, and say they feel less lonely and isolated. Taking regular walks can also be a catalyst for adopting other healthy behaviours.”

Light versus heavy jogging – which is optimal for longevity?

The benefits of jogging for longevity may be best obtained from small quantities, according to a study published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.3

Researchers looked at 5,048 healthy participants in the Copenhagen City Heart Study and questioned them about their activity. They identified and tracked 1,098 healthy joggers and 413 healthy but sedentary non-joggers for 12 years. The study, which tracked hours of jogging, frequency, and the individual’s perception of pace, found that over the 12-year study strenuous joggers were as likely to die as sedentary non-joggers, while light joggers had the lowest rates of death.

Jogging from 1 to 2.4 hours per week was associated with the lowest mortality and the optimal frequency of jogging was no more than three times per week. Overall, significantly lower mortality rates were found in those with a slow or moderate jogging pace, while the fast-paced joggers had almost the same mortality risk as the sedentary non-joggers.

Researchers registered 28 deaths among joggers and 128 among sedentary non-joggers. In general, the joggers were younger, had lower blood pressure and body mass index, and had a lower prevalence of smoking and diabetes.

“It is important to emphasise that the pace of the slow joggers corresponds to vigorous exercise and strenuous jogging corresponds to very vigorous exercise,” said Dr Peter Schnohr, (Copenhagen City Heart Study, Frederiksberg Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark). “When performed for decades, this activity level could pose health risks, especially to the cardiovascular system.”

These findings show similar results to past studies where researchers have found that more than moderate exercise may cause more harm than good.

“The U-shaped association between jogging and mortality suggests there may be an upper limit for exercise dosing that is optimal for health benefits,” Dr Schnohr said. “If your goal is to decrease risk of death and improve life expectancy, jogging a few times a week at a moderate pace is a good strategy. Anything more is not just unnecessary, it may be harmful.”

References

1. Sharman JE, La Gerche A, Coombes JS. Exercise and cardiovascular risk in patients with hypertension. Am J Hypertens 2015;28:147–58. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ajh/hpu191

2. Hanson S, Jones A. Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits? A systematic review and meta-analysis.  Br J Sports Med 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2014-094157

3. Lee D, Pate RR, Lavie CJ, Sui X, Church TS, Blair SN. Leisure-time running reduces all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risk. J Am Coll Cardiol 2014;64:472–81. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2014.04.058

Published on: January 29, 2015

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