What is the Ideal Amount of Exercise?
Written by Bryan Heart cardiologist, John Steuter, MD
With a new year upon us, resolutions to improve our physical fitness are plenty. Patients often ask how much should I exercise? Is it possible to exercise too much?
It is well accepted that people who are physically active have at least a 30% lower risk of adverse events compared with those who are inactive. However, the ideal amount of exercise for improving longevity is uncertain.
Study Examines Exercise Levels and Mortality
In 2015 the Copenhagen City Heart Study was published that looked at people and their level of physical activity and outcomes. The focus of the study was to investigate the association between jogging and long-term, all-cause mortality by focusing specifically on the effects of pace, quantity and frequency of jogging. In the study 1,098 healthy joggers and 3,950 healthy non-joggers were prospectively followed.
Activity levels were defined as follows:
- Group I: Almost entirely sedentary (e.g., reading, watching television or movies, engaging in light physical activity, such as walking or biking for < 2 hours per week)
- Group II: Light physical activity for 2 to 4 hours per week
- Group III: Light physical activity for more than 4 hours per week or more vigorous activity for 2 to 4 hours per week (e.g., brisk walking, fast biking, heavy gardening, sports that cause perspiration or exhaustion)
- Group IV: High vigorous physical activity for more than 4 hours per week or regular heavy exercise or competitive sports several times per week
Study Finds Jogging 1 to 2.4 Hours Per Week is Best for Health
Jogging from 1 to 2.4 hours per week was associated with the lowest mortality. Light and moderate joggers have lower mortality than sedentary non-joggers, whereas strenuous joggers have a mortality rate not statistically different from that of the sedentary group. However, like all studies this one has its limitations and critics as well. Defining the optimal level/intensity for people should be the focus for further work.
Your Patients and their Exercise Plans
Nonetheless, being physically active has benefits that we all need. For patients who already have a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, it is recommended that you discuss their exercise plans with them before initiating a new exercise program to ensure safety.
If you have questions about patients with cardiovascular disease and their exercise routine, or would like to refer a patient to Bryan Heart, call 402-483-3333.