"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

How physical activity keeps your heart in good condition.

New results from the famous Framingham Heart Study show how much exercise it’s essential to stay fit—and the way it helps your heart.

Evidence that physical activity prevents heart disease goes back a long time. In fact, this remark was among the many earliest findings published within the late Sixties from the landmark Framingham Heart Study, which began in 1948 and remains to be going strong. Now, two recent studies involving the descendants of the unique Framingham volunteers offer insight into how various kinds of activity affect your health and your heart.

The fastest option to wellness

Both studies explored the importance of cardiovascular fitness (CRF), which measures how well your heart and lungs deliver oxygen to your muscles during physical activity. First published on November 21, 2021. European Heart Journal, it included 2,070 people from the third-generation cohort, lots of whom are grandchildren of the unique Framingham participants. All underwent exercise tests on stationary bicycles to measure their CRF; They also wore fitness trackers for per week to measure their activity levels. The researchers then compared the participants' current values ​​with measurements taken eight years earlier.

Not surprisingly, those that did more moderate-vigorous exercise, took more steps, and sat less between the 2 test periods showed a marked improvement in CRF. This was largely true no matter an individual's age, sex, weight, risk of heart disease, and the way energetic they were at previous diagnosis.

Moderate vigorous exercise (corresponding to brisk walking, jogging and cycling) was probably the most effective option to increase fitness. To achieve the identical change in fitness level from only one minute of moderate-to-vigorous exercise, an individual would must walk for 3 minutes or spend about quarter-hour sitting (see “Walk, Jog, Running: How Fast?” ).

People who had a higher-than-normal level of exercise or variety of day by day steps had a higher-than-average CRF, no matter how long they sat. This suggests that being more energetic can partially offset the negative effects of sitting an excessive amount of. But Dr. Scully says it's an excellent idea to avoid sitting for long periods of time.

Walk, Run, Run: How Fast?

The CDC defines moderate walking as a rate of two.5 to 4 miles per hour. Where you fall on this range is determined by your fitness level. If you exercise frequently and are in good condition, moderate intensity can mean 4 miles per hour, or 15 minute miles. If you might be less fit, moderate intensity is near the lower end of the range.

According to 1 study, a walking speed of about 100 steps per minute (which translates to 2.7 miles per hour) is brisk walking for many adults. To reach vigorous intensity activity, it’s essential to take not less than 130 steps per minute (which qualifies as jogging, at a speed of just over 4 mph). Running is commonly 6 mph or faster.

Beyond the advantages of blood vessels

A second study, published on October 29, 2021. JAMA Network Open., enrolled 2,962 people within the Framingham Offspring Study. The cohort, which began in 1971, features a sample of little kids of the unique congregation and their spouses.

Instead of measuring CRF directly (which is dear and requires specialized equipment), researchers estimated CRF based on an individual's age, gender, waist circumference, resting heart rate, and physical activity. Estimated using information corresponding to activity, when participants were middle-aged. But unlike the opposite study, this one also included relevant measures of the participants' cardiovascular health, Dr. Scully notes. For example, it included tests to examine the stiffness of their arteries and to search for early signs of atherosclerosis (plaque build-up contained in the arteries).

Over a median follow-up period of 15 years, individuals with high CRF in midlife were more prone to have healthy blood vessels that were more elastic with less plaque formation than individuals with low CRF. Those who were fitter were also less prone to have hypertension, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and heart disease, and were less prone to die throughout the follow-up period.

While these findings highlight the importance of high fitness levels in midlife, it's never too late to begin exercising, says Dr Scully. “No matter what age you start exercising, you can improve your cardiovascular health,” he says.

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