Wouldn’t it be great to avoid the countries number one killer, the heart attack?
But what can you do to avoid it?
We are told that, for many, having a sedentary lifestyle can be a dangerous thing. In fact, did you know the World Health Organization (WHO) lists “lack of exercise” as the fourth leading cause of death worldwide? (Yep, right up there with smoking, obesity and high blood pressure!).
Let that sink in for a moment.
The sedentary lifestyle you lead contributes to the fourth leading cause of death. But here’s the icing on the cake, the top three causes of death are highly influenced by sedentary lifestyles too!
Now, let that sink in!
But past and present research supports the ability of regular physical activity to lower your odds of having a heart attack, getting cancer, having diabetes or any host of other problems you will have if you don’t exercise.
The scientific evidence is overwhelming. Exercise is the key to living a productive life. Period. However, you also need to watch your dietary intake of inflammatory promoting sugar and processed carbs too.
According to a Norwegian study, cardiorespiratory fitness – which refers to the ability of the heart, lungs and vascular system to deliver oxygen efficiently to muscles – not only reduces the risk of heart disease and premature death, but can slash the risk of heart attack nearly in half.
This study involved 4,500 participants and was published in the European Heart Journal last November, their conclusion: lack of physical activity can dramatically increase the risk of heart attack years later – even in the absence of symptoms.
Let’s briefly look at this study. The researchers used something called V02 Max – a measurement of the maximum quantity of oxygen the body can uptake in exercise. This can be used to determine many things, but fitness level changes were the focus of the study. VO2 Max is considered one of the most precise methods for evaluating cardiorespiratory fitness in clinical settings.
By increasing VO2 Max (increasing an individual’s physical fitness) the study found substantial benefits in reducing the burden of coronary heart disease in a dose response relationship (meaning the fitter you are the better the protection). Conversely, researchers found that less fit participants, with lower oxygen uptake, experienced an increased risk of heart disease and premature death.
Ok, so that’s not particularly surprising. The fitter you are the less likely you are to have a heart attack. However, unlike previous studies that examined primarily men, over half of the participants in this study were women. Previously, women were considered to be less likely of suffering a heart attack because they tend to have genetic gender-based protection that lowers their risk by about 10% lower than average males.
In the study, all were considered relatively healthy at the beginning of the study, with none diagnosed as having cardiovascular disease, lung disease, cancer or high blood pressure. Do you see what that means? It means that the basic Framingham risk factors were less important than the risk of not exercising. It also means that while exercise is the one thing that you can immediately change, the other risk factors were contributory to disease.
Recall, at the beginning of the study 80 percent of the volunteers were considered to be at “low risk” for developing heart disease over the next decade. This is important to remember.
Because, by the end of the ten-year study, 147 of the participants had had heart attacks or had developed angina pectoris – chest pain or discomfort due to heart disease. Remember, none were considered high risk at the beginning of the study.
The researchers were able to identify a clear relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and disease risk – and even developed a formula for linking the two.
The team concluded that each increase in fitness of 3.5 points was associated with a 15 percent lower risk of heart attack or angina.
Remember I wrote that it was dose dependent? Well, turns out that the top 25 percent of the fittest participants had only half as high a risk (48 percent) as those who fell into the lowest 25 percent. So, the more regular you are to exercise the lower your risk.
Multiple studies have shown that even short periods of physical inactivity can cause an increased risk of disease. Research published in July 2018 in the Journals of Gerontology, found that limiting the mobility of older, overweight, prediabetic adults caused full-fledged diabetes symptoms to begin to emerge.
In this study, the volunteers were merely told to restrict their daily steps to less than 1,000 a day – the equivalent of being hospitalized, or on bedrest. They did this for two weeks. And the results – elevated blood sugar and worsening insulin sensitivity. Essentially, the participants “became diabetic” because of their low levels of activities in just two weeks of inactivity.
Interestingly, these unhealthy effects did not subside when normal activity was resumed – an ominous finding, and one which the researchers admitted caught them by surprise. The take home point; it does not take long to lose it, but getting it back takes time.
Another study confirmed those same results. When healthy young men were asked to cut their daily steps in half – from over 10,000 steps per day to under 5,000 – they also experienced a significant and rapid negative effect on blood sugar control.
How many steps do you get per day?
What we can conclude from these findings is simple. Exercise immediately protects against heart disease by lowering risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, inflammation and excess fats in the blood. In addition, physical activity increases circulation, strengthens bones and helps combat the obesity that can contribute to diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
Strength training along with that further protects your functionality in later life, something we call activities of daily living. Turns out that your body has several types of muscle fiber, the strength and power fibers are called fast-twitch or white muscle while the endurance fibers are called slow twitch or red fibers. As we age (without strength training) we lose the fast twitch fibers and keep most of the red. That results in low functional strength and the inability to get normal things done as you age.
Cardiovascular training does not preserve the fast twitch strength muscle.
Along with these physical benefits, a workout program can also offer mood-lifting and cognitive effects as well as improved memory and improved immune system.
How long do you need to exercise?
For most, researchers believe that a single 20-minute exercise session can offer immediate benefits including improved cognition, better executive function, sharper memory, elevated mood, and a more productive life. Furthermore, there appears to be little benefit physiologically for more than 30-minutes of exercise.
To make the pie sweeter, there is even evidence that regular physical exercise can lower cancer risk too. According to the American Cancer Society, a recent review of data involving 1.4 million patients indicates that aerobic exercise can lower the risk of at over a dozen different types of cancer.
What’s more, regular physical activity was associated with up to a 20 percent lower risk of developing cancers of the lung, kidney, stomach, liver, esophagus, colon and endometrial lining – as well as decreased risk of leukemia and multiple myeloma.
In addition to delivering major health benefits, regular physical activity can help protect you against potentially life-threatening diseases many years down the road.
There is no better time than the present to start moving (your body and mind will thank you!)
And the final point… strength training can be equally as effective if it’s designed in such a way as to promote endurance training along with improved strength.
Want to know how that’s done? Come visit us at ReVibe. We specialize in exercise design that minimizes the time spent exercising while maximizing the benefits. Your efforts to minimize your risk of heart attack and other diseases need only take 20-30 minutes a day, three times a week. Not a lot of time for life saving benefits.