20 minute walk may cut your heart failure risk: study

Last Updated 16 August 2015, 10:39 IST

Men who get regular, moderate exercise, such as walking or cycling for 20 minutes daily, may have a lower risk of heart failure compared to those with the lowest and highest levels of activity, a new study has claimed.

However, recent active behaviour may play a more important role than past physical activity, researchers said. Heart failure is a condition where the heart is unable to pump as much blood as the body needs.

Researchers followed 33,012 men from the Cohort of Swedish Men from 1998 until 2012 - or first event of heart failure - to determine if physical activity was associated with heart failure risk.

Overall, men who had the lowest and highest levels of physical activity had a higher risk of heart failure, 47 per cent and 51 per cent respectively, than men with a median level, the study found.

When analysing the different types of physical activity, walking or bicycling for 20 minutes per day was associated with the largest risk reduction.

When enrolling in the study, participants from two counties in Sweden completed a questionnaire about their level of activity at work, home, walking or bicycling, and exercise in the year prior at an average of 60 years old and retrospectively at 30 years old.

Researchers assigned each type of physical activity an intensity score and determined walking or bicycling just 20 minutes per day was associated with a 21 per cent lower risk of heart failure and accounted for the largest difference in heart failure free survival.

Of the men diagnosed with heart failure during the course of study, those who had engaged in at least 20 minutes per day in walking or bicycling were approximately eight months older compared to heart failure cases who had engaged in less than 20 minutes per day of walking or bicycling.

Upon analysing the different types of activities, certain types of physical activity were associated with reduced risk of heart failure such as walking and bicycling or exercising more than one hour per week.

Researchers also found that men who were active at 30 years old but were inactive at the time of study enrolment did not have a decreased risk of heart failure.

"We found that recent activity may be more important for heart failure protection than past physical activity levels. The first incidence of heart failure in men was also later for those who actively walked or bicycled 20 minutes each day," said Andrea Bellavia, of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and one of the study authors.

While the study suggests both low and high levels of physical activity, compared to more moderate levels, could increase the risk of heart failure in men, study authors cautioned that the link between physical activity and heart disease is not fully understood.

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure.

(Published 16 August 2015, 10:39 IST)

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