TRONDHEIM, Norway — Cardio exercises, such as running, cycling, or jogging for long distances can be very challenging, especially when one doesn’t get off the couch on a regular basis. It’s well known that regular cardio exercise benefits those at risk of developing heart issues, but a new study out of Norway finds that neglecting aerobic exercises can still greatly increase one’s risk of a heart attack in the future — even if an individual generally appears to be in good physical health.
“We found a strong link between higher fitness levels and a lower risk of heart attack and angina pectoris over the nine years following the measurements that were taken,” says lead researcher Bjarne Nes of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in a release.
Nes goes on to say that even among the most fit individuals in the study, the top 25% had half the heart attack risk of the bottom 25%. This means that even if an individual shows no signs of cardiovascular problems, the less they exercise the more at risk they will be in the future.
CERG researchers measured the cardiorespiratory fitness of 4527 men and women between 2006 and 2008. None of the participants had cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, or cancer at the time of the survey. Most were considered to have a low risk of cardiovascular disease over the next ten years.
However, 147 of the participants had heart attacks or were diagnosed with the heart condition angina pectoris by 2017. In order to understand why, the research team grouped the participants based on their level of fitness in relation to others of the same age and gender. The risk of heart attack and coronary blockage declined as the patient’s overall fitness increased.
According to the study, even a small increase in fitness levels can have a big impact on heart health. For example, an increase of just 3.5 fitness “points,” as defined by the researchers, resulted in a 15% decrease in the likelihood of suffering a heart attack.
“Our results should encourage people to use training as preventive medicine. A few months of regular exercise that gets you out of breath can be an effective strategy for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease,” comments study author Jon Magne Letnes.
The study is published in the European Heart Journal.