If you are at risk of developing heart failure—marked by shortness of breath (especially upon exertion), coughing, wheezing, elevated heart rate and fluid build-up—you might think staying active is the last thing on your to-do list. But a new study suggests doubling or even tripling your exercise efforts could be just the thing to counteract heart failure.
Heart failure occurs when a weakened heart muscle is unable to pump sufficient amounts of oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. It’s usually caused by aging, prior heart disease, high blood pressure or a previous heart attack. Folks who have it are typically forced to cut back on exercise.
Current exercise recommendations suggest 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week, for a total of 150 minutes each week. This guideline was established to get Americans, most of whom lead sedentary lifestyles, moving. It is believed if people meet the minimum, they will have better overall health. But more intensity for a longer duration is necessary to lose weight or to reduce risk of developing specific diseases.
For the new study, which focused on how much exercise would be needed to lower the risk of heart failure, researchers analyzed data from 12 studies done in the United States and Europe of 370,460 participants who self-reported activity levels. Over a 15-year period, 20,203 heart failure events occurred. Researchers found doubling the minimum exercise recommendations could lower the risk of heart failure by 20 percent, and quadrupling it could reduce the risk by 35 percent.
This study suggests the general population might need to ramp up their weekly exercise commitment to more than 150 minutes in order to change their risk of developing heart failure. Researchers also recommend that people start the process earlier, making sure their children are involved in daily exercise and fitness activities. This seems especially prudent given the recent studies pointing out the dangers of too much sitting and the link to cancer and a shortened lifespan.