In a study assessing the impact of specific type and intensity of exercise and the risk of coronary heart disease among men, researchers from the School of Public Health (SPH) have found that men who train with weights, run, jog, row, or walk briskly, show the most significantly reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) compared to those who don’t do those forms of exercise. The results appear in the Oct. 23 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
A pool of 44,452 men from the Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study were monitored via questionnaire every two years from 1986 to 1998 to determine potential coronary heart disease risk factors and type and intensity of leisure time activity. While studies have been conducted on the beneficial relationship of exercise and risk of CHD, there is a paucity of information on what role exercise type and intensity level play in reducing CHD risk.
The authors found that men who trained with weights for 30 minutes or more per week reduced their risk for CHD by 23 percent compared to those who didn’t train with weights. Men who ran for an hour or more each week reduced their risk by 42 percent compared to non-runners, and walking at a brisk pace for more than half an hour was associated with an 18 percent reduction compared to non-walkers’ risk. Walking pace, independent of the number of hours spent walking, had an important impact on reducing the risk of CHD.
The study also found that physically active men tend to have lower body mass indexes, lower total fat intake, higher intakes of fiber and alcohol, and lower incidences of smoking and high blood pressure.
Frank Hu, an associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the School of Public Health who co-authored the study with Mihaela Tanasescu, a former graduate student at SPH, said of the findings, “What’s new here is that we can see which exercises and intensity levels have the greatest benefit to reducing the risk of heart disease. Weight training had been thought to be beneficial but we now can see for certain that is. The best way for men to reduce the risk of CHD is to increase the amount they exercise, increase the intensity level of the exercise, and add weight training to their exercise program.”