03 Feb Exercise: A Dose of Medicine
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By now we all aware of the connection between exercise and better health. In fact, it has long been known by the medical community that people who are more physically active have a 25% less risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Firstly, exercise strengthens the heart muscle, and pumps blood and oxygen more efficiently throughout the body. In addition, exercise lowers cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and keeps blood pressure in check. Furthermore, it helps with weight loss, and leads to less atherosclerosis. Now, according to research (published January 2021 in PLOS Medicine) from the United Kingdom, the positive effects of exercise may be a dose of medicine.
A new, large-scale study led by researchers at the University of Oxford used wearable fitness trackers to record the activity of over 90,000 participants over a period of five years. the study followed men and women between the ages of 40-69. As a result, researchers found that physical activity is associated with lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Moreover, the greatest benefit is seen for those who are active at the highest level.
Over the five-year follow-up period, 3,617 of the participants were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease (3,305 nonfatal and 312 fatal). This included 2,220 men and 1,397 women. Among the participants, as the amount of moderate and vigorous physical activity increased, cases of cardiovascular disease decreased. Also important, there was no threshold where the effects of exercise stopped improving cardiovascular health. In other words, no amount of exercise is too much for the average adult. (This does not include professional athletes or those training at a higher fitness level.)
Associate Professor Aiden Doherty, from the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Population Health, is one of the lead authors of the study. “This is the largest ever study of device-measured physical activity and cardiovascular disease. It shows that physical activity is probably even more important for the prevention of cardiovascular disease than we previously thought.” Furthermore, he notes the findings agree with the new World Health Organization guidelines on physical activity. WHO recommends at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week for all adults.
The study shows almost any level of movement has a positive effect of reducing cardiovascular disease. However, the protective effect of physical activity against cardiovascular disease is as follows:
- 48%-57% for those in the top quarter of all physical activity
- 49%-59% for those in the top quarter of moderate-intensity activity
- 54%-63% for those in the top quarter of vigorous-intensity activity
It doesn’t matter what type of physical activity you do, as long as you do some form of movement as much as possible. Some examples are:
- swimming laps
- lifting weights
- water aerobics
- floor/step aerobics
In conclusion, the study shows more exercise leads to better cardiovascular health. Perhaps more important, there is no such thing as too much activity.