Long-accepted forms of exercise may have no benefit in preventing heart disease, experts say
Going for a short “brisk” walk every day is more likely to reduce the risk of heart disease than going for longer, leisurely strolls, according to a new study.
Those who walk at a faster pace for seven minutes per day cut their risk by a greater percentage than those who walk slower for 14 minutes.
This is because exercise does not stave off cardiovascular conditions if it is not of a moderate intensity, experts said.
The study analysed data from 88,000 people who wore an activity tracker on their dominant wrist for one week.
Experts collected data on the amount of physical activity they did and how much of this was moderate or vigorous.
The number of cardiovascular events, including coronary artery disease and stroke, was then recorded among participants, who were followed up for 6.8 years on average.
Analyis showed that when participants did more exercise overall but the amount of moderate to vigorous exercise remained the same, they saw little improvement in their heart health.
When their activity levels doubled but the amount of vigorous activity stayed the same, heart health also remained the same.
However, when the level of vigorous activity rose by 20 per cent, the risk of heart disease fell by 23 per cent.
Furthermore, when the level of vigorous activity rose by 40 per cent, the risk to heart health also fell by 40 per cent.
The findings, published in the European Heart Journal, mean that activities such as washing the car or doing laundry, which were previously considered as exercise, may not have any benefit in preventing cardiovascular diseases.
Researchers said the rates of heart disease were 14 per cent lower when moderate-to-physical activity accounted for 20 per cent of overall physical activity, even in those who do not exercise regularly.
This difference is the equivalent of going for a seven-minute brisk walk instead of a 14-minute stroll.
Professor Tom Yates of Leicester University, a senior author of the study, commented: “Our analysis confirms that increasing the total amount of physical activity can lower the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, but we also found that achieving the same overall amount of physical activity through higher intensity activity has a substantial additional benefit.
“Our findings support simple behaviour-change messages that ‘every move counts‘ to encourage people to increase their overall physical activity, and if possible to do so by incorporating more moderately intense activities.”
“This could be as simple as converting a leisurely stroll into a brisk walk, but a variety of approaches should encourage and help individuals to find whatever is most practical or enjoyable for them.”