- According to a new study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, maintaining physical activity after a heart attack can help you live longer.
- Aerobic activity like walking and easy running are among the types of exercise the researchers looked at.
Numerous studies have linked physical activity to lower incidence of heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks. But should those who’ve already had a myocardial infarction, another term for heart attack, dial down the exercise so the heart can rest?
Not at all, suggests a new study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. In fact, maintaining or increasing activity could help you live longer.
Researchers looked at 1,651 men who’d had a heart attack, and classified them according to their exercise level. Over a 14-year timeframe, they found that those who kept up high levels physical activity (2.5 hours or more of vigorous activity per week) had a 39 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality compared to those with low levels of physical activity (less than one hour of vigorous activity per week). Participants who increased activity from before their heart attack to at least 2.5 hours a week saw a 27 percent lower risk.
But you don’t have to do intense speed or HIIT workouts to see benefits, according to study author Laila Al-Shaar, Ph.D., in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She told Runner’s World that simply 2.5 hours of walking every week appears to have a significant survival benefit, no matter your pace.
'Walking can improve cardiovascular risk factors, including cholesterol levels, blood pressure, weight control, and insulin sensitivity, which are all associated with long-term survival,' she said.
Although this study was conducted only on men, Al-Shaar said that previous studies on women show similar results. In particular, research on postmenopausal women that spanned seven years and included 856 participants who’d had heart attacks found considerable benefits with increased activity.
In that study, women who had been sitting for at least eight hours a day before a heart attack and continued sitting that much after showed an increased risk of all-cause mortality. In fact, researchers noted every hour of sitting above that eight-hour mark was associated with a nine percent increased risk.
Al-Shaar added that activity should be undertaken after consultation with a healthcare provider, but that walking or easy running is a great form of cardiac rehab and one that offers protective effects for anyone wanting to boost heart health.
'Maintaining regular physical activity throughout adult life is simply associated with better survival, even after experiencing a heart attack,' she said.
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