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Exercise and Your Health
Exercise More, Live Longer
It's official—increased exercise capacity lowers the risk of death in African-American and Caucasian men. A US study proved this to be true.
Lead author Peter Kokkinos of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington said the Veterans Affairs study is the largest known study to assess the link between fitness and mortality.
"It is important to emphasize that it takes relatively moderate levels of physical activity—like brisk walking—to attain the associated health benefits," Kokkinos said in a statement.
"Certainly, one does not need to be a marathon runner. This is the message that we need to convey to the public."
Kokkinos and colleagues investigated exercise capacity as an independent predictor of overall mortality in 6,749 African-American men and 8,911 Caucasian men, who were tested by treadmill test and were tracked for an average of 7.5 years.
The study, published in the Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, found men who achieved "very highly fit" levels had a 70 percent lower risk of death compared to those in the "low fit" category.
"Our findings show that the risk of death is cut in half with an exercise capacity that can easily be achieved by a brisk walk of about 30 minutes per session five to six days per week," Kokkinos added.
You Don’t Need Intense Workouts to Improve Health
Moderate exercise shows healthy benefits. Walking 30 minutes a day, may offer better protection against diabetes and heart disease than a more rigorous workout regimen, concludes a U.S. study that included 240 middle-age, sedentary people.
"On the surface, it seems to make sense that the harder we exercise, the better off we'll be, and by some measures that's true," lead author and exercise physiologist Cris Slentz, of Duke University Medical Center, said. "But our studies show that a modest amount of moderately intense exercise is the best way to significantly lower the level of a key blood marker linked to higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. More intense exercise doesn't seem to do that."
Perhaps even more surprising is that some of the benefits achieved through moderate exercise seem to last much longer than the benefits gained through more intense training, Slentz said.
The study was published in the August 2007 issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology. The participants in the study were divided into four exercise groups: high amount/high intensity; low amount/high intensity; low amount/moderate intensity; and a control group that did no exercise. The volunteers started with a two- to three-month "ramp-up" period and then continued their exercise programs for six months.
The Duke team found that no amount of exercise significantly changed levels of low- density lipoprotein (LDL -- "bad" cholesterol). However, length and intensity of exercise did improve levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL -- "good" cholesterol), and that benefit was sustained over time.
The study also found that low amount/moderate intensity exercise significantly lowered levels of triglycerides, which are particles that carry fat around the body and are also a good indicator of insulin resistance, a marker for diabetes. Reducing triglyceride levels lowers a person's risk of diabetes and heart disease.
"A proper exercise program appears to be able to lower a person's insulin resistance in just a matter of days. We were also amazed to see that the lower triglyceride levels stayed low even two weeks after the workouts ended," senior author and cardiologist Dr. William Kraus said in a prepared statement.
Walking 10,000 Steps a Day is an Easy Way to Get Your Recommended Exercise
Research shows people who set a goal of 10K steps get more exercise than those who walk briskly for 30 minutes a day. Getting your daily exercise by briskly walking two or three miles can seem a trifle daunting. But walking 20 or 30 steps—that’s not so bad, is it? Add up a few steps here and there, and soon you’re burning calories and boosting your daily activity level.
That’s the premise behind today’s popular 10,000 step programs, which encourage folks to walk 10,000 steps per day—the equivalent of five miles. Think in Steps, Not Minutes Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reports that women who were told to walk 10,000 steps each day walked more than women told to take a daily brisk 30-minute walk.