No one plans to have a heart attack; however, should one occur, a new study has determined that an active lifestyle ups the likelihood of survival.

The premise of the research, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology (2017; doi: 10.1177/2047487317702046), was to analyze the effects of leisure-time physical activity on heart attack survival. The cohort study featured records of 14,223 participants, who were first assessed between 1976 and 1978. At that time, they completed questionnaires on general health, diseases, lifestyle, physical activity levels and family history of ischemic heart disease; they also underwent nonfasting blood tests. Subjects were followed through registries until 2013, when researchers compared stats for heart attack incidence, mortality and physical activity levels.

“The main finding of this study was that patients who suffered a [myocardial infarction] and were physically active prior to their MI were more likely to survive the event,” the authors said.

And, according to their analysis, survival rates were also tied to how active subjects had been: “We detected a dose–response association with decreasing risk of dying of MI immediately with increasing levels of physical activity, which was highly significant.”

Despite this positive result, the researchers did not find that physical activity offered a protective effect against future heart failure or premature mortality. They also noted that more research was necessary to confirm causation, as this study was purely observational.