Aerobic exercise strongly reduces flu and pneumonia death

Credit: Unsplash+

Understanding the Link

A recent study from the United States, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, has found a connection between regular aerobic exercise (often referred to as “cardio”) and a lower risk of death from flu or pneumonia.

Interestingly, this benefit was observed even if the amount of exercise fell below the currently recommended levels.

However, the study also indicates that there might be a limit, beyond which the benefits don’t increase or, in the case of muscle-strengthening activities, may even become harmful.

What’s the Recommended Exercise Level?

Adults are generally advised to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or a combination of the two.

In addition, moderate to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activities should be performed at least twice a week.

Aerobic exercises include activities like speed walking, swimming, running, and stair climbing, while muscle-strengthening activities encompass weight lifting, resistance band exercises, bodyweight exercises like squats and lunges, and heavy gardening.

The Study and its Findings

The researchers aimed to determine if specific types and amounts of physical activity could be associated with a reduced risk of death from flu or pneumonia.

They analyzed data from 577,909 adults who participated in the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) between 1998 and 2018 in the United States.

The participants were categorized based on how well they met the recommended aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening weekly targets.

The researchers defined five levels of physical activity, ranging from less than 10 minutes to over 600 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity, and from less than two to seven or more sessions per week of muscle-strengthening activities.

The findings revealed that half of the respondents did not meet either weekly target.

However, those who met both recommended weekly physical activity targets had almost half the risk of dying from flu or pneumonia compared to their peers who didn’t meet either target, even after accounting for other factors.

Interestingly, even ‘insufficient’ levels of aerobic activity (10-150 mins/week), which fall below the recommended duration, were found to offer health benefits relative to complete physical inactivity.

On the other hand, seven or more weekly sessions of muscle-strengthening activities were associated with a 41% higher risk of death from flu or pneumonia.

Limitations and Conclusion

The study, being observational, cannot establish cause and effect. It also relied on participants’ recollections of their physical activity levels, which could be inaccurate.

The survey only captured leisure-time physical activity lasting 10 or more minutes and did not distinguish between light and moderate-intensity activities.

However, the findings provide valuable insights, suggesting that efforts to reduce influenza and pneumonia mortality might focus on decreasing aerobic inactivity and promoting at least two weekly sessions of muscle-strengthening activities.

The impact of ‘insufficient’ levels of aerobic activity on health outcomes also deserves further exploration.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about an important cause of heart disease, and how to remove plaques that cause heart attacks.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about How vitamin K helps protect the heart, reduce blood clots and death risk, and results showing that herbal supplements could harm your heart rhythm.

The study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Copyright © 2023 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.