Study Shows Moderate Activity May be More Beneficial in Reducing Vascular Disease Risk

In comparison to inactivity and frequent physical activity, moderate exercise was associated with the lowest risks of coronary heart disease (CHD), venous thromboembolism events (VTE) and cerebrovascular disease, according to a study published Feb. 16 in Circulation.

The Million Women Study, led by Miranda E. G. Armstrong, MPhil, PhD, examined the self-reported frequency and duration of physical activity in 1,119,239 women in England and Scotland from baseline through an average follow-up of nine years. The participants in the study were 50 to 64 years of age and did not have previous history of treatment for stroke, heart disease, thrombosis or diabetes. At baseline, participants were asked to evaluate how often they did any exercise and the frequency at which they did strenuous exercise – defined as any work or exercise causing sweating of a fast heartbeat. After nine years follow-up, participants were asked how many hours they spent doing one of the following activities: housework, gardening, walking, cycling and strenuous exercise.

Results of the study showed that while doing any physical activity vs. none at all was associated with a lower risk of CHD, cerebrovascular disease and VTE, there was not any associated benefit in doing more strenuous activity over more moderate exercise. Further, the study reported that more frequent activity of any kind was also not associated with reduced risk of vascular diseases in comparison to moderate activity (a frequency of 2-3 times per week). Those participants who indicated gardening and walking as part of their activities at follow-up had lower mean BMI and weight at baseline.

At follow-up, 49,113 women had incident CHD, 17,822 with incident cerebrovascular disease and 14,550 with incident VTE. Women who reported doing longer durations of more than one hour per week of gardening or cycling, and up to three hours per week of housework tended to have lower risk of these vascular diseases. The authors of the study conclude that “the main difference in risk was between those doing some activity versus none, with the lowest risks being observed among women doing moderate amounts of activity.”

In an accompanying editorial comment, Rachel R. Huxley, MA, DPhil, remarked that “these findings may offer some hope – and perhaps even a dash of inspiration – to the estimated 30 [percent] of adults worldwide who struggle to achieve the recommended levels of physical activity…[W]alking may well be woman’s best medicine.”

Clinical Topics: Diabetes and Cardiometabolic Disease, Prevention, Pulmonary Hypertension and Venous Thromboembolism, Vascular Medicine, Exercise

Keywords: Body Mass Index, Cerebrovascular Disorders, Coronary Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Exercise, Venous Thromboembolism

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