Oxford, England — Exercise has long been recognized as a way to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Now, researchers from the University of Oxford report there’s no limit to its cardiovascular benefits.
The researchers used UK Biobank data for more than 90,000 participants without previous cardiovascular disease. The participants wore accelerometers – small, lightweight motion sensors typically worn on the wrist – to measure their physical activity over a seven-day period between 2013 and 2015, and were divided into four groups based on their physical activity levels.
During an average of 5.2 years of follow-up, more than 3,600 participants were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.
Along with being diagnosed with high blood pressure most often, the group in the lowest activity range smoked more as well as had higher body mass indexes and high levels of C-reactive protein, which signals increased inflammation in the body.
Compared with the group with the lowest activity levels, those in the moderate-intensity group were 71% as likely to be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. That likelihood dropped to 59% and 46% for the groups with the second-highest and highest activity levels, respectively.
In press release, lead study author Terry Dwyer said the findings “enhance confidence that physical activity is likely to be an important way of preventing cardiovascular disease.”
The professor in Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Women’s and Reproductive Health added, “The potential risk reduction estimated in those engaging in relatively high levels of activity is substantial and justifies a greater emphasis on measures to increase levels of physical activity in the community.”
Dwyer and his colleagues also note the findings support updated physical activity guidelines released by the World Health Organization in November. WHO recommends adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week.
The study was published online Jan. 12 in the journal PLOS Medicine.