Exercise Is Even More Important For Cardiovascular Patients

An important recent study [1] shows physical activity is even more important for people with cardiovascular disease than everyone else. I learned about it in Tony’s blog One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Past 100. Thanks, Tony.

The chart showing relative risk of death vs “Met-minutes per week” is especially interesting. It shows that for those without cardiovascular disease the benefits plateau fairly quickly, but not so for those that have cardiovascular disease.

I also like the concept of tracking “Met-minutes” shown in the chart. Often recommendations for exercise are a bit vague, like “150 minutes a week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity”. To see what constitutes “moderate” or vigorous, you have to look at examples of exercises. But a “Met-minute” is a precise combination of intensity (METs) and duration (minutes). I’ve discussed METs, or metabolic equivalents previously, basically they are how much harder you are working compared to sitting, which is 1 MET. There are charts to look this up. So instead of just saying walking at moderate intensity, walking at a leisurely pace (2 mph) is 2.5 METs, walking briskly (3 mph) is 3 Mets, and walking very briskly (4 mph) is 4 METS. More vigorous exercise like brisk running or vigorous cycling can get to 10 or more METS. Now looking at the figure, to get to the lowest risk for a cardiovascular disease patient, you need sbout 2500 Met-minutes per week. At 10 METS that is 250 minutes, or just over 4 hours. With very brisk walking it would take a little over 10 hours. But at leisurely walking speed you’d need 1000 minutes, or almost 17 hours! This really puts into perspective how much quicker you can get the same benefit it you work out harder. But this shouldn’t be taken too far by doing a lot of high intensity activity. As I’ve mentioned previously, what many experts feel is the ideal combination is mostly brisk walking or equivalent, with a smaller amount of higher intensity activity.

The biggest bang for your exercise buck comes when you go from sedentary to about 500 Met-minutes per week. Even at leisurely walking speed you can achieve that in about 30 minutes a day.

Reference

  1. Jeong, S, et al, “Mortality reduction with physical activity in patients with and without cardiovascular disease”, European Heart Journal , 2019.

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