Heart failure is prevalent among older adults, but an hour of moderate exercise daily appears to be associated with reduced risks for the condition, which affects about 5.1 million individuals in the U.S.
In a new study published in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure on Tuesday, Sept. 2, researchers from Sweden tracked almost 40,000 individuals between 20 and 90 years who were never diagnosed of heart failure at the start of the study in 1997. The researchers looked at the participants' level of work and leisure time physical activities at the start of the study and tracked them to see how this is linked with their likelihood of developing heart failure later.
The researchers found that the participants who had the highest activity levels of over an hour of moderate activity or 30 minutes of vigorous activity daily were 46 percent less likely to develop heart failure, which suggests that the more physically active a person is, the lower risk he had for heart failure.
"Leisure-time physical activity was inversely related to risk of developing heart failure in a dose-response fashion," the researchers wrote. "This was reflected in a similar but less pronounced association of total physical activity with risk of heart failure. Only part of the effects appeared to be mediated by traditional risk factors."
Although the study did not include data on what particular exercise was done, study author Kasper Andersen, from the Department of Medical Sciences at the Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden, recommends physical activities that focus on cardiovascular conditioning such as walking and jogging albeit he said that any activity is better than not engaging in any physical activity at all.
"You do not need to run a marathon to gain the benefits of physical activity - even quite low levels of activity can give you positive effects," Andersen said. "Physical activity lowers many heart disease risk factors, which in turn lowers the risk of developing heart failure as well as other heart diseases."
The study did not also look at whether or not starting to exercise in middle-age is too late to reap the benefits but Andersen said that evidence from earlier research has shown that exercise has beneficial effects on health regardless of the age a person started to exercise.
Results of the study supported the recommendation of the American Heart Association to engage in 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per week. The study also adds evidence to the importance of all adults engaging in physical activities.