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20 Minutes a Day Keeps the Heart Doctor Away

To reduce heart failure risk by exercising, remember Goldilocks and avoid extremes, suggests a 2015 study. It found that neither low nor high levels of physical activity were as effective as moderate amounts for warding off heart failure.

The researchers gathered self-reported data on physical activity (type and duration) for 33,012 men from 1998 to 2012. Subjects’ average age at baseline was 60 ± 9. The scientists compared that information against heart failure incidence from the Swedish National Patient Register and Cause of Death Register.

At follow-up, there were 3,609 reports of first-time heart failures within the study cohort. Men who reported the highest (57 metabolic equivalent [MET] hours/day) and lowest (~38 MET hours/day) levels of
physical activity had a greater risk of heart failure than those who exercised at the median level. Men who said they walked or biked for at least 20 minutes per day fared best, with a 21% lower risk of heart failure, and recent exercise appeared to be more protective than exercise participation in earlier years.

“This study suggests that both low and high levels of total physical activity, in comparison with moderate levels, could increase heart failure risk in men and that certain types of physical activity are associated with a protective effect on heart failure in men,” stated the researchers.

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure (doi:10.1016/j.jchf.2015.05.006).

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