Increasing physical activity at any intensity is good for health, but new research published today in European Heart Journal shows that there is a greater reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease when more of this activity is of at least moderate intensity. The study, led by researchers from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), the Leicester Biomedical Research Center and the University of Cambridge, analyzed physical activity data measured with a wrist-worn accelerometer from more than 88,000 participants in UK Biobank.
Current physical activity guidelines from the UK’s Chief Medical Officers recommend that adults aim to be active every day, and also that adults do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (such as brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity (such as . running) every week. Volume of physical activity is defined as the intensity of activity multiplied by time, but until recently it was not clear whether the total volume of physical activity was most important for health or whether more vigorous activity had additional benefits.
Dr Paddy Dempsey, research fellow at the University of Leicester and the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge and first author of the paper, said: “Most large-scale studies to date have used questionnaires to identify participants.” physical activity levels, but the intensity and duration of physical activity are difficult to remember accurately, especially when it comes to low-intensity daily activities such as washing the car or sorting laundry.Without accurate records of the duration and intensity of physical activity, it is not possible to sort out the contribution of more vigorous physical activity from that of the total volume of physical activity.
“Wearables have helped us accurately detect and record the intensity and duration of movement for 90,000 individual UK Biobank participants and we recently published an analysis of wearable data showing that moderate and vigorous intensity activity leads to a greater reduction of the overall risk of early More intense physical activity may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, in addition to the benefit seen with the overall amount of physical activity, as it stimulates the body to adapt to the greater effort required. That’s what we set out to investigate in the research published today.”
The authors examined the relationship between the volume and intensity of physical activity and the incidence of cardiovascular disease in 88,412 middle-aged adults without cardiovascular disease in the UK. These individuals wore a research-grade activity tracker on their dominant wrist for a week while participating in the UK Biobank study. The movement data they collected was used to calculate total activity volume, and the authors also calculated the percentage of that volume that was achieved through moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. The number of cardiovascular events, including ischemic heart disease or cerebrovascular disease, was then recorded among study participants over a mean follow-up period of 6.8 years.
The authors found that the total volume of physical activity was strongly associated with a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk, and they also demonstrated that getting more of the total volume of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity was associated with additional reductions in cardiovascular vascular risk. The incidence of cardiovascular disease was 14% (95% CI: 5-23%) lower when moderate-to-vigorous physical activity accounted for 20% rather than 10% of total physical activity energy expenditure, even at those who otherwise had low levels of activity. This is equivalent to turning a daily 14-minute walk into a brisk 7-minute walk.
Overall, the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease were seen among UK Biobank participants who undertook higher total levels of physical activity and a higher proportion of moderate to vigorous physical activity. However, interestingly, when the total volume of physical activity increased but the ratio of moderate to vigorous activity remained the same, the authors observed little effect on the incidence of cardiovascular disease. For example, when total physical activity levels were doubled, there was no significant effect on cardiovascular disease rates when the ratio of moderate to vigorous activity remained at 10%, but cardiovascular disease rates dropped by 23% and 40% when the ratio of moderate to vigorous physical activity increased by 20% and 40%, respectively.
Professor Tom Yates, Professor of Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior and Health at the University of Leicester and senior author of the report, said: “Our analysis of UK Biobank data confirms that increasing the total amount of physical activity can reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, but we also found that achieving the same total amount of physical activity through higher-intensity activity had a significant additional benefit.
“Our findings support simple behavior change messages that ‘every movement counts’ to encourage people to increase their overall physical activity and if possible to do so by including more moderately intense activities.” This can be as simple as turning a leisurely walk into a brisk walk, but a variety of approaches should encourage and help people find what is most practical or enjoyable for them.”
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Physical activity volume, intensity and incidence of cardiovascular disease, European Heart Journal (2022). DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehac613
Provided by University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust
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