New research from the University of California San Francisco has found people need to exercise much more than they first thought.
The study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine examined physical activity and cardiovascular health.
ExerciseNZ recommends adults engage in around 150 minutes of moderate exercise — a brisk walk falls under this term — each week for optimal cardiovascular health, which equates to around 500 metabolic equivalents for a task (METs) per week.
MET estimates the amount of energy used by the body during physical activity, compared against resting metabolism. This unit is often used so it can apply to people of varying body weight and compare different activities or types of exercise, said ExerciseNZ chief executive Richard Beddie.
“Other research has found that intense physical activity can drastically lower a person's risk of serious diseases and health conditions including diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer.
“The World Health Organisation recommends adults do at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or a minimum of 75–150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week.
“This can also be topped up with some muscle-strengthening activities involving all major muscle groups on two or more days a week as these provide additional health benefits.”
Researchers said the amount of moderate exercise people actually need in a week to prevent high blood pressure — a key indicator of overall health — is much more than the many governments’ recommended guidelines.
They found that especially in young adulthood, it seems like twice that level, about five hours a week, is required to prevent high blood pressure.
The new optimal number is five hours of moderate exercise a week. Moderate activities include walking, home maintenance like gardening and workouts.
To reach that estimate, researchers analysed information gathered from a sample of 5115 adults taking part in a long-term study.
The study team crunched the numbers and found that, on average, all adults saw a steep decline in physical activity after transitions to tertiary education or the workforce.
Only those who did around more than 300 minutes of physical activity a week avoided hypertension.
This is the basis for a guideline from 2018 of between 150 and 300 minutes of moderate exercise per week for adults — the equivalent of around 10,000 steps.
If the findings are right, government guidelines just aren’t enough and adults need to exercise more, especially in early adulthood. According to the study results, 18 percent of adults who did less exercise would likely develop high blood pressure later.
Research already suggests that the more people exercise, the better their hearts will work. The health of a cardiovascular system is closely associated with longevity.