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Physical Activity Related to Lower Risk of Heart Failure

Get a hobby, and an active one at that. Regular physical activity is essential for managing weight and has been shown to strengthen your brain, mind, bones, and genes. But the health benefits don’t stop there. Making physical activity a regular part of your day could help delay onset of chronic disease and might help prevent heart disease and heart failure.

In a study from a national Swedish survey on health, researchers analyzed medical history, lifestyle factors (like smoking or alcohol habits), and physical activity patterns of nearly 40,000 participants. Physical activity included both leisure time activities, such as walking, swimming, jogging, or biking, as well as total physical activity, which encapsulated energy expended during an entire 24-hour day. For medical history, researchers focused on heart-related conditions and heart failure.

About 13 years after initial responses, 3.9% of participants had experienced heart failure. Significantly, results showed as levels of leisure time physical activity increased, rate of heart failure fell. The effect was greatest as activity increased from 0-3 METh/day (metabolic energy turnover per hour, a scientific measurement of energy expenditure), which corresponds well with the CDC’s recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week (about 1.1-2.1 METh/day). Little additional benefit was seen above this amount. Total daily activity also affected heart failure rate, but to a smaller extent.

Researchers believe regular physical activity not only helped lower risk of several conditions that lead to heart failure such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, but that physical activity itself may have directly affected risk of heart failure. Endurance-type activities were likely most influential because they help get the heart pumping which can improve blood flow.

So what does this mean for you? Get up and get moving to keep your heart pumping strong! Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week – think a 30-minute power walk five days per week. Hitting the treadmill can be great for your heart, but there are plenty of other ways to keep active if the gym just isn’t your thing. Go for a bike ride, hit the ski slopes, play outside with your children, take a dance class, or organize a game of basketball – whatever sounds fun to you. Staying active throughout life is essential for heart health, and the key is finding activities that you enjoy and will stick to.

Published February 1, 2015

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