Regular exercise is essential for keeping your heart healthy, and the more the better, experts from the American College of Cardiology’s Sports and Exercise Cardiology Council say.
The study authors examined recent research and found that even small amounts of exercise, including standing, can reduce the risk of heart disease. Even greater reductions in risk can be achieved with more exercise, the researchers said.
But only half of American adults get the recommended 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, the report authors noted.
The new research also reviewed recent studies that have suggested that excessive aerobic exercise — such as endurance races — may harm the heart. While that possibility warrants further investigation, current research shows that even for people with extremely high levels of training, the benefits of exercise outweigh the risks, according to the report, published Jan. 18 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
“The public media has embraced the idea that exercise may harm the heart and disseminated this message, thereby diverting attention away from the benefits of exercise as a potent intervention for the primary and secondary prevention of heart disease,” Dr. Michael Scott Emery, co-chair of the Sports and Exercise Cardiology Council, said in a journal news release.
“The greatest benefit is to simply exercise, regardless of the intensity,” Dr. Valentin Fuster, editor-in-chief of the journal, said in the news release.
Exercise can also help heart disease patients. But, research reviewed by the study authors found that only 62 percent of heart attack patients were referred to cardiac rehabilitation after leaving the hospital. Of those, only 23 percent went to more than one rehab session. And, just 5 percent completed more than 36 sessions, the study showed.
“The available evidence should prompt clinicians to recommend strongly low- and moderate-exercise training for the majority of our patients,” Emery said.
“Equally important are initiatives to promote population health at large through physical activity across the life span, as it [influences] behavior from childhood into adult life,” he added.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a guide to physical activity.