In a new study, researchers found that physical activity is not only linked to a lower risk of heart disease, but there is no threshold for that association, with the lowest risk of heart disease seen for those who are most active.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Oxford, UK.
Research has shown that there is an inverse link between self-reported physical activity and the occurrence of cardiovascular disease.
However, there is uncertainty about the range of this association, especially at the highest levels of physical activity.
In the study, the team used data from 90,211 UK Biobank participants without prior heart disease.
These people wore an accelerometer to measure their physical activity over a 7-day period in 2013 through 2015.
The team found that people in the lowest category of physical activity smoked more, had higher body mass index and C-reactive protein, and were most often diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Overall, there were 3,617 cases of heart disease diagnosed in participants during an average of 5.2 years of follow-up.
People in every increasing quartile of physical activity, for moderate-intensity activity, vigorous-intensity activity and total physical activity, were less likely to have heart disease.
For instance, compared to those in the lowest quartile, those in the second quartile of moderate-intensity exercise were 71% as likely to be diagnosed with heart disease, those in the third quartile were 59% as likely, and those in the highest quartile were 46% as likely.
The findings show that physical activity is probably even more important for the prevention of cardiovascular disease than we previously thought.
They lend further weight to the new WHO guidelines on physical activity which recommend at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week for all adults.
One author of the study is Terence Dwyer.
The study is published in PLOS Medicine.
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