According to an analysis of over 100,000 individuals over 30 years, adults performing 2 to 4 times the recommended weekly amount of moderate or vigorous physical activity have a significant reduction in mortality risk.1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
The reduction was 21 to 23% for individuals who participated in 2 to 4 times the amount of vigorous physical activity that’s recommended, and 26-31% for individuals who participated in 2 to 4 times the weekly amount of moderate physical activity that’s recommended.
It’s well known that engaging in physical activity regularly is linked to a reduction in the risk of premature death and cardiovascular disease. The 2018 physical activity guideline recommendations are that individuals participate in moderate physical activity for a minimum of 150 to 300 minutes per week or vigorous physical activity for 75 to 150 minutes per week or a comparative combination of the two. The American Heart Association recommendations are a minimum of 150 minutes of weekly aerobic exercise of moderate intensity, 75 minutes of weekly aerobic exercise of vigorous intensity, or a combination of the two.
Physical activity’s potential effect on health is huge, although it’s not clear if participating in levels of extended, vigorous, or moderate-intensity physical activity higher than the levels that are recommended provides any extra benefits or is harmful to cardiovascular health.
The study utilized multiple self-reported physical activity measures over decades to look at the relationship between long-term physical activity throughout mid and late life and death.
Medical records and mortality data were analyzed for over 100,000 individuals obtained from 2 large studies: the all-male Health Professionals Study and the all-female Nurses’ Health Study. Individuals whose data were looked at were 63% female, and over 96% were white individuals. They were 66 years old on average and had an average BMI of 26 kg/m2 during the 30 years.
Leisure-time physical activity was self-reported by filling out a questionnaire for either of the studies every 2 years. The questionnaires, which were kept up to date and improved on every 2 years, included questions regarding medical histories, family, physician-diagnosed illnesses, health information, and personal habits which include alcohol and cigarette consumption and exercise frequency.
Exercise data was documented as the average time spent weekly on different physical activities in the last year. Moderate activity was characterized as calisthenics, weightlifting, lower-intensity exercise, and walking. Vigorous activities included bicycling, swimming, running, jogging, and other aerobic exercises.
The analysis revealed that individuals performing twice the currently recommended weekly physical activity level of either moderate or vigorous intensity had the lowest long-term mortality risk.
The analysis also revealed:
• Individuals who fulfilled the vigorous physical activity guidelines had a 31% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and 15% reduced risk of non-cardiovascular disease mortality, with an overall 19% reduced risk of all-cause mortality.
• Individuals who fulfilled the moderate physical activity guidelines had a 22 to 25% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and a 19 to 20% reduced risk of non-cardiovascular disease mortality, with an overall 20 to 21% reduced risk of all-cause mortality.
• Individuals who performed 2 to 4 times over the recommended long-term vigorous physical activity amount of 150 to 300 minutes per week had a 27 to 33% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and 19% non-cardiovascular disease mortality, for an overall 21 to 23% reduced risk of all-cause mortality.
• Individuals who performed 2 to 4 times over the recommended moderate physical activity amount of 300 to 600 minutes per week had a 28 to 38% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and 25-27% non-cardiovascular disease mortality, for an overall 26 to 31% reduced risk of all-cause mortality.
Also, no detrimental cardiovascular health effects were observed in the individuals who reported participating in over 4 times the minimum activity levels that are recommended.
Prior research has found evidence that long-term, high-intensity, endurance exercise, which includes long-distance bicycle races, triathlons, and marathons, could increase adverse cardiovascular event risk, such as sudden cardiac death, atrial fibrillation, coronary artery calcification, and myocardial fibrosis.
Participating in long-term, high-intensity weekly physical activity of 300 minutes or moderate-intensity weekly physical activity of 600 minutes at levels over 4 times the recommended minimum per week didn’t provide any extra reduction in mortality risk.
According to the researchers, the study provides evidence that can help guide people in choosing the right intensity and amount of physical activity to take care of their overall health throughout their lifetime. The results support the current physical activity guidelines and indicate that participating in medium to high activity levels of either moderate or vigorous intensity or a combination can produce maximum benefits.
The researchers also remarked that individuals who participate in under 75 minutes of weekly vigorous activity or under 150 minutes of weekly moderate activity could have a greater long-term reduction in mortality risk by consistently participating in about 75 to 150 minutes of weekly vigorous activity or 150 to 300 minutes of weekly moderate exercise or an equivalent combination of the two.
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