Leisure Activities Keep Heart Healthy

Long term leisure physical activity enhances heart health

(RxWiki News) Simple everyday activities such as cleaning your house, gardening or biking may just give your heart a boost. When these physical activities are performed for more than a decade, enhanced heart health is the result.

People who were active and participated in home repair, housework, brisk walking, cycling, vigorous gardening or sports were found by researchers to have fewer markers of inflammation, which is a good thing.

Inflammatory markers are believed to decrease with exercise, leading to a lower risk of heart disease.

"Stay active to increase heart health."

Mark Hamer, PhD, study lead author and associate professor of epidemiology and public health at University College in the United Kingdom, noted that it's not just vigorous physical activity and sports that are important to health.

Moderate activities such as leisure time physical activity are also important to health and can contribute to successful aging, he said.

During the research, which began in 1991, researchers followed just over 4,200 individuals with an average age of 49 who were participating in the Whitehall II study. The Whitehall II study included more than 100,000 British civil servants which investigated social or occupational influence on heart risk.

The participants were asked to report the duration and frequency of various leisure time physical activities.

At the beginning of the study, clinicians analyzed two important inflammatory markers – C-reactive protein and interleukin-6. Those markers were analyzed again 11 years later at the conclusion of the research.

Nearly half of participants met standard recommendations for two and a half hours of moderate to vigorous exercise each week to promote heart health at the start of the study. In later phases of the study, 83 percent hit that mark.

Investigators found that participants who were active with leisure time activities had lower levels of both inflammatory markers at the beginning of the study. Those levels remained fairly constant over the course of the study compared to individuals who rarely engaged in physical activity.

Participants who were inactive at the beginning of the study and later became active also achieved lower inflammatory marker levels.

“Previous studies have looked at the association between physical activity and inflammatory markers in cross-sectional and short-term studies, but none have done this using longitudinal data,” Dr. Hamer said. “Our data is much stronger than the previous shorter or cross-sectional studies, and adds to prior evidence and confirms the importance of physical activity for its anti-inflammatory effects.”

The study was recently published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

Review Date: 
August 14, 2012