Spending more time exercising can greatly reduce your risk of heart failure, study shows

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If you’ve been exercising for 30 minutes everyday, satisfied that you’ve met the American Heart Association’s physical activity recommendation, then you’re in for a surprise. In a nutshell, a recent study found that a mere 30 minutes is not enough to help reduce the risk of heart problems.

The study, which was conducted by several experts, including those from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, found that those who engaged in twice the amount of recommended weekly exercise experienced a 19 percent reduced heart failure risk. Even better, those who exercised four times as much than the recommended time, or 10 hours weekly, were 35 percent less likely to have heart failure. That’s a significant change from the two and a half hours (150 minutes) that’s recommended in both the U.S. and the U.K., a timeframe found to lead to a 10 percent reduced heart failure risk. While a 10 percent reduced risk certainly counts for something, it’s still not sufficient to adequately bolster heart health. According to experts involved in the study, it’s simply “not good enough.”

30 minutes of walking isn’t enough, says researcher

University of Texas Professor and study researcher Jarett Berry, says, “Walking 30 minutes a day as recommended in the physical activity guidelines, may not be good enough — significantly more physical activity may be necessary to reduce the risk of heart failure.” In other words, more exercise is better for your heart health.

The study, which was published in the journal Circulation, assessed approximately 370,000 people who had their health monitored for 15 years. It states that the “…findings suggest that doses of physical activity in excess of current guideline recommended minimum levels…might be required to provide more robust reductions in the risk of HF. Future studies comparing different doses PA/exercise-training interventions are needed to determine the optimum dose of PA required for HF prevention.”

In the statement above, HF refers to “heart failure,” while PA refers to “physical activity.”

Findings provide eye-opening look at need to address current exercise guidelines

The American Heart Association notes that physical activity is vital to improve heart health and prevent stroke. However, their current recommendation does not mesh with this most recent study. According to their web site, “To improve overall cardiovascular health, we suggest at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise…Thirty minutes a day, five times a week is an easy goal to remember.”

This latest study demonstrates the need to continually assess various health recommendations and consider updating them as deemed appropriate. As new findings are continually brought forth, it’s essential to learn how they do or do not fit within existing methods and long-held suggestions and to act accordingly.

“Future physical activity guidelines should take these findings into consideration,” says researcher Ambarish Pandey, “and potentially provide stronger recommendations regarding the value of higher amounts of physical activity for the prevention of heart failure.” She goes on to explain that although strides have been made in the fight against coronary heart disease over the past three decades, she maintains that heart failure rates “have not declined enough.” She says, “The findings from the present study suggest that higher levels of physical activity may help combat this growing burden of heart failure.”

More exercise benefits an increasingly health-conscious society

The fact that exercise is a key to improve overall health, not just heart health, is gaining increased attention. Today, more and more people are becoming health conscious, well-aware of everything from the ingredients in their foods to wanting to get the right amount of exercise.

Some doctors are even incorporating exercise as part of their patient recommendations, as is the case of a Washington, D.C. doctor who made headlines by writing his overweight young patients “park prescriptions.” Along with area park systems, Dr. Robert Zarr works with patients to provide them with specific walking routes based on their medical records, health needs and daily travel habits. He’ll often suggest alternative transportation routes that include walking through a park in lieu of taking public transportation.

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