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Some exercise is better than none for lowering heart disease risk

August 01, 2011
  • Even a little regular exercise can lower coronary heart disease risk, a study finds
Even a little regular exercise can lower coronary heart disease risk, a… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

Exercise advice for couch potatoes usually goes like this: doing something is better than doing nothing. Turns out that might be true--people who do even a little regular exercise may have lower risk of heart disease than people who never leave the sofa.

Researchers did a meta-analysis of 33 studies looking at the effects of exercise on coronary heart disease among people who were active or sedentary to see if they could quantify how much exercise was needed to show any benefits. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which recommend a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise for health benefits, were used as a measure.

People who met those basic guidelines had a 14% lower risk of heart disease compared with people who did no leisure time physical activity. Bigger benefits were in store for people who exercised 300 minutes a week--their heart disease risk was lowered by 20%. There were diminishing returns for those who were active at five times the basic guidelines; they saw only a 25% decreased risk for heart disease.

But people who did less than the recommended 150 minutes per week also had lowered risk of heart disease compared with their sedentary counterparts.

When grouped by gender, women fared better than men, seeing reduced heart disease risk overall.

While the U.S. guidelines seem to be a good marker for exercise, the study authors note that more research may be necessary to further explore the relationship between physical activity and heart disease risk.

The study was released Monday in the journal Circulation.

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