You may have noticed (or perhaps soon will) this article from the NY Times earlier today with an enticing headline: Only a single minute of high intensity exercise can replace 45 minutes of moderate exercise. This seems like good news for those of us who are always pressed for time to find time for exercise. But we need to delve into the details of this study before drawing broad conclusions about the optimal duration of exercise.
The study in question showed that an exercise routine using high intensity exercise for one minute of total duration (in a routine that took 10 minutes total including warmup and rest periods) had similar benefits to a longer routine of moderate exercise in this study group of 25 subjects. It suggests that incorporating intervals of high intensity exercise can shorten the amount of time needed to obtain long-lasting health benefits.
I do think this is an enticing concept and it is a very good reminder that adding interval training can be quite beneficial to our health and our fitness goals. But we need to remember why we advocate for physical activity for wellness and disease prevention. Exercise should not be a “bitter medicine” taken as quickly as possible, but should be considered a desired component of our day-to-day lifestyle. Therefore I think that moderate exercise, such as brisk or sustained walking, as well as light jogging, can have much broader benefits, such as improving our mental state, helping concentration and sleep, and of course improving our long-term health and disease prevention.
This article is certainly a useful reminder that adding intervals to exercise, for those of us who are physically able, can help us reach our fitness goals quicker and more successfully. However, these type of programs can also increase the risk of injury or worsen underlying medical conditions. Therefore, high intensity exercise regimens should only be undertaken with the guidance of a fitness professional, and for those with chronic heart or other medical conditions, with the approval of our personal physician or health care provider.
Eight thousand two hundred fifty three runners completed Saturday’s 11th Cap City Half marathon, in addition to participants in the Patron Quarter Marathon and Commit to Be Fit 5K events. It was a great event for Ohio. The HeartHealth Doctors have posted information about heart function and exercise. Exercise such as running can be the ultimate way to multitask for heart health by managing stress, getting to or keeping goal weight, improving cholesterol profile, and reducing high blood pressure. Exercise has been shown to impact diabetes risk and can assist diabetes management. Research shows being more active is key to heart health; walking is an excellent way to exercise. Walking 10 minutes twice daily gets you close to the recommended guidelines for physical activity (150 minutes per week of moderate (means heart rate increases, but you can have a conversation)).
The American College of Cardiology’s Cardiosmart resource has great information about how to Move More. Being active directly impacts numerous risk factors for heart disease.
Heart Health professionals are responding to the evidence of heart health benefits of exercise and athletics. Sports Cardiology is a section of the American College of Cardiology and provides an area for Cardiovascular Specialists (doctors who treat heart and vascular disease) to help people be active. Someone wanting to be active could be a professional athlete, a young person, someone who participated in sports at school and now wants to return to competition, or patients who have completed cardiac rehabilitation programs and want to continue to develop their exercise regimen with the goal of improving their heart health. The membership in the Sports Cardiology section of the American College of Cardiology has grown from 150 in 2011 to > 4000 members. Cardiologists are working to promote the benefits of exercise, balanced with modifying/reducing risks athletes may face.
The half marathon run May 3 had an Ohio feel to it; weather ranging from cool temperature, warmer temperature, intermittent grey skies, intermittent rain, some sunshine. There were great crowds, creative signs for encouragement, good music from bands, DJ’s, and the help of many many volunteers. It was a well run event (!) and sets the stage for the U.S.A. Men’s and Women’s National Half Marathon Championships coming to Cap City in 2016, 2017. You don’t have to be a national champion runner to get benefit from exercise; use a tracker to check your steps (> 22,000 yesterday!), or commit to someone (or a group) who want/s to be more active. Yesterday ~11,955 total event participants at the Cap City Half / Patron Quarter Marathon / Commit to Be Fit 5K – did great heart health multitasking.
It is commonly accepted that regular physical activity, such as running, can improve your overall health and reduce the risk of chronic disease. But can more extreme exercise, such as marathon running, actually increase our risk of heart problems, perhaps by ‘straining’ or ‘overtraining’ our heart and circulation (fortunately, the actual risk of a cardiac event during extreme exertion such as a marathon is very low)? Recently, researchers in Hartford reported on a very interesting study- they recruited Boston Marathon participants to undergo a vascular ultrasound and physical prior to the marathon, in order to compare the plaque buildup in their carotid arteries to average non-runners. But what was most interesting was that they also recruited the runner’s spouses for the same checkup – and noted if they were runners or non-runners. Their theory was that the spouses would have the same “heart healthy” lifestyle as their running mates, minus the endurance training.
So what did they find? This article from the New York Times has the details (and this link is to the original research article) . . . .essentially they showed that the runners were indeed healthy overall, with generally better body weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol than non-runners. . . but many still had significant plaque buildup in their hearts, especially if they were older or had ongoing risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. So running did not cancel out the effects of other risk factors, but did not increase heart risk either. What can we conclude from this research? Running, or other high level fitness, improves health and reduces risk – but does not excuse us from monitoring our blood pressure, our weight, our diet, or our cholesterol levels.
The most intriguing conclusion? It turns out the spouses of the runners, even if not runners themselves, had better than expected risk profiles and plaque buildup, probably from the same heart healthy lifestyle that most runners employ. The article quotes the lead researcher as saying: If you want improved heart health but can’t be a runner, marry one! Hopefully my wife finds that advice reassuring!
Sudden death is always tragic, but even more so when it strikes a healthy teenager or young adult. There are steps we can take to understand risk in our youngsters and minimize the risk of this devastating event.
Here is our recent post on the OhioHealth website regarding sudden death in young athletes.
Also, here is a 10 minute video “curbside consult”, featuring Dr. Grewal, courtesy of the Columbus Medical Association: