It is well documented that regular physical activity is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death. In 2018, the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommended that adults engage in at least 150-300 minutes/week of moderate physical activity or 75-150 minutes/week of vigorous physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both intensities.
The American Heart Association’s current recommendations, which are based on HHS’s Physical Activity Guidelines, are for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes per week or vigorous aerobic exercise, or a combination of both.
What would happen if the population doubled this time?
Dong Hoon Lee, Sc.D., M.S., a research associate in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston and colleagues analyzed mortality data and medical records for more than 100,000 adults gathered from two large prospective studies: the all-female Nurses’ Health Study and the all-male Health Professionals Follow-up Study from 1988-2018. Participants whose data were examined were 63% female, and more than 96% were white adults. They had an average age of 66 years and an average body mass index (BMI) of 26 kg/m2 over the 30-year follow-up period.
Participants self-reported their leisure-time physical activity by completing a validated questionnaire for either the Nurses’ Health Study or Health Professionals Follow-Up Study every two years.
They found good results…
Participants who met the guidelines for vigorous physical activity had an observed 31% lower risk of CVD mortality and 15% lower risk of non-CVD mortality, for an overall 19% lower risk of death from all causes. Those who performed two to four times above the recommended amount of long-term vigorous physical activity (150-300 min/week) had an observed 27-33% lower risk of CVD mortality and 19% non-CVD mortality, for an overall 21-23% lower risk of death from all causes.
Moderate physical activity had an observed 22-25% lower risk of CVD mortality and 19-20% lower risk of non-CVD mortality, for an overall 20-21% lower risk of death from all causes. And those who performed two to four times above the recommended amount of moderate physical activity (300-600 min/week) had an observed 28-38% lower risk of CVD mortality and 25-27% non-CVD mortality, for an overall 26-31% lower risk of mortality from all causes.
On the other hand, no harmful cardiovascular health effects were found among the adults who reported engaging in more than four times the recommended minimum activity levels, compared to previous studies that found elevated risk of Cardiovascular events such as atrial fibrillation, myocardial fibrosis and sudden death.
However, engaging in long-term, high intensity physical activity or moderate intensity physical activity at levels more than four times the recommended weekly minimum did not provide any additional reduction in risk of death.
Also they found people who perform less than 75 minutes of vigorous activity or less than 150 minutes of moderate activity per week may have greater benefits on mortality reduction by consistently performing approximately 75-150 minutes of vigorous activity or 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise per week in the long term.
As we can see, there is no extra benefit of doing more exercise than recommended, it is more beneficial to maintain a long term habit of exercise with moderate time of activity.
Dong Hoon Lee, Leandro F.M. Rezende, Hee-Kyung Joh, NaNa Keum, Gerson Ferrari, Juan Pablo Rey-Lopez, Eric B. Rimm, Fred K. Tabung, Edward L. Giovannucci (July 25, 2022). Long-Term Leisure-Time Physical Activity Intensity and All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality: A Prospective Cohort of US Adults.. AHA Circulation. Retrieved from : https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.121.058162
Photo by Graham Mansfield on Unsplash