Activity Has Long-Term Payoff for Heart

Cardiovascular disease risk and death rates drop with physical activity over 40 year span

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Get up off of that seat! Physical activity has many health perks, including lowering the risk of cancer and osteoporosis. Over the decades, staying active also brings great benefits to the heart.

The American Heart Association says that getting as little as 30 minutes of physical activity a day, five times a week, can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Recent research has found regular activity throughout your life cuts the risk of getting and dying from heart disease.

"For a healthy heart, exercise 30 minutes every day."

Susan Shortreed, PhD, assistant investigator in Biostatistics Unit with Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, Washington, set out with collaborators to compare long-term physical activity to long-term inactivity and how they relate to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and CVD-attributable mortality.

Investigators used the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) population, which had 50 years of follow-up. The authors included 4,729 individuals who were free of cardiovascular disease starting in 1956.

Every two years since enrollment, FHS participants provided details on lifestyle and health-related topics. From these responses, scientists categorized subjects as always active, having mixed activity levels, and always inactive.

Throughout the 40-year follow-up 2,594 people (equal numbers of men and women) had at least one CVD event. A total of 3,521 people (1,649 men) died, with 1,313 of those deaths attributed to CVD (686 of those in men).

The study suggests that long-term physical activity reduces the rate of CVD by 5 percent and CVD death by 17 percent compared to long-term physical inactivity. The results were based on comparing those who were continuously physically active with those who were considered continuously inactive.

Dr. Shortreed told dailyRx News, “Overall, our study suggests that keeping up physical activity throughout one’s life, including as we age, is a great way to increase one’s chance of living longer."

The author noted that when her team looked at men and women separately, a link was found indicating men who were active their whole lives had a decreased risk for CVD.

But there was not enough data to accurately quantify the link between physical activity and onset of CVD in women.

“Overall, we recommend that future studies evaluate the effects of long-term physical activity in women and diverse populations, by recording activity levels overtime and using appropriate analytic methods to quantify this relationship,” said Dr. Shortreed.

The study was published in March in Heart Online First.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 20, 2013
Last Updated:
August 16, 2013