Performing vigorous physical activity once or twice a week compared with sedentary behavior or light physical activity may improve long-term cardiac health in patients with stable coronary artery disease, according to a study recently published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
Simone Biscaglia, M.D., of the Cardiovascular Institute, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria di Ferrara in Cona, Italy, and colleagues examined data from an international prospective registry called CLARIFY, which included 32,370 patients with stable coronary artery disease. The researchers followed this registry of consecutively treated outpatients for up to five years. The patients were then divided into groups based on the intensity of physical activity performed: sedentary (16.1 percent of patients), light activity performed most weeks (51.4 percent), vigorous activity once to twice a week (16.8 percent), and vigorous activity performed three or more times a week (15.7 percent).
The researchers found that the group of patients who performed vigorous activity once to twice weekly had the lowest risk for the primary outcome, which was the composite of cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction, and stroke (hazard ratio, 0.82 compared with the light physical activity group). Patients who partook in vigorous activity more often than twice weekly did not appear to experience any additional health benefits.
“This can reassure patients with stable coronary artery disease—fear of having a heart attack should not be a barrier to physical activity,” Biscaglia said in a statement. “More research is needed to discover what drives the reduction in cardiovascular death seen with exercise—partly this is due to fewer fatal strokes, but the other mechanisms are currently unknown.”
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