Recent findings by researchers from Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute published in the journal Heart revealed that running for extended periods of time does not yield any more potential heart benefits than engaging in moderately vigorous physical activity for 30 to 50 minutes.
Medical News Today reported that while the baby boomer generation was was led to believe that intense exercise for long periods of time, such as running marathons, was beneficial for health, the Saint Luke’s researchers found that long periods of physical activity may cause cardiovascular “wear-and-tear,” which can counteract the benefits that other forms of exercise may provide. They also noted that if a person has his or her heart set on running a marathon, he or she should go back to moderate exercise following the 26.2 mile trek.
According to the news source, research from Manitoba University, which was published in the Journal of Cardiovascular MRI, found that the physical damage induced by marathons is temporary, and the heart usually recovers within a week.
Using ultrasounds of the heart, magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs), CT scans and blood tests, he investigators analyzed a group of patients who were older than 50 and ran the Manitoba Full Marathon in 2010 and 2011. They found that the top runners in the in the age demographic had transient elevation in blood markers, temporary weakness and swelling on the right side of the heart. All of these side effects subsided within seven days of the 26.2-mile run.
Lifespan and exercise time
In the journal PLoS Medicine, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital reported that life span correlates to the length and vigorousness of physical fitness. The findings revealed that weekly additions of 75 minutes of vigorous walking in people over 40 may increase life expectancy by 1.8 years.
Medical News Today also noted that according to study investigator I-Min Lee, M.D., an additional 450 minutes of brisk walking per week may add another 4.5 years onto people’s lives.
Further benefits of exercise
There is a plethora of physical and mental benefits of engaging in physical activity. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise bolsters cardiovascular wellness by lowering blood pressure and increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol, while reducing the detrimental fatty substances found in the blood known as triglycerides. The source also reports that regular physical activity may help ward off stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer and can help prevent arthritis and reduce the risk of falling.
Physical activity may also bolster muscle strength and allow nutrients and oxygen to reach the tissues and enhance the overall efficiency of the cardiovascular system.
The Mayo Clinic also notes that that happiness may be tied to exercise, and that walking for 30 minutes a day encourages the production of brain chemicals that are linked to happiness and relaxation. Exercise can bring about an overall sense of well-being because it increases self-esteem and people’s opinions of themselves.
Wellness and nutrition
Diet is another key factor in health and well-being. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that for a 2,000-calorie diet, people consume 2.5 cups of vegetables as well as two cups of fruit per day. A diversity of vegetables is also beneficial and people should try to eat from each of the five subgroups: dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables, and other vegetables.
Omega-3 fatty acids may encourage heart health. The University of Maryland reports that clinical studies have shown that omega-3s help reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well as reduce the risk of heart attack and abnormal heart rhythms. People can get omega-3s from chia seeds, flax seeds and an Omegakrill supplement from Dr. Newton’s Naturals.