Physical activity is known to have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease in high-income countries, where such activity is mainly recreational. But does non-recreational physical activity (the main form of exercise in lower-income countries) also decrease cardiovascular disease and mortality?
In one of the largest studies ever published on the heart health benefits of physical activity, Dr. Scott Lear and his collaborators found that a mere 150 minutes spent exercising per week – regardless of the type of physical activity – could cut a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and death.
Our findings indicate that non-recreational activity – work, housework, active transportation – is just as beneficial in reducing the risk for premature death and heart disease.Dr. Scott Lear, first author of the publication
The researchers tracked exercise levels – as well as the rate of cardiovascular disease (including heart attacks, stroke, and heart failure) and all-cause mortality – of more than 130,000 adults living in 17 high (Canada, Sweden, United Arab Emirates), middle (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Poland, Turkey, Malaysia, South Africa) and low-income countries (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Zimbabwe).
Following the study participants for an average of seven years, they found that the people who reported at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week were much healthier than their sedentary counterparts. Physically active participants were less likely to have heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular disease, and less likely to die from any cause. Getting only two and a half hours of weekly exercise was associated with a 28 percent reduction in premature death, and a 20 percent reduction in heart disease.
All forms of exercise appeared to reduce a person’s risk of death and disease, whether people were sweating away in a gym class, cleaning their house, or simply walking to work.