Long-Term Exercise Routine Lowers Women's Cardiac Risks

Seems there's been a recent surge in research about the benefits of exercise, and all of it has been positive. The other common thread that links virtually all of these studies: To enjoy any protective benefits from exercise, you must do it consistently and regularly.

The same is true about new research that showed how women who exercised less than two hours a week, if at all, increased their odds of dying from sudden cardiac death upwards of six times during that rare workout and for up to an hour afterward. Conversely, women who exercised anywhere from four to seven hours each week reduced their chances of a sudden cardiac episode by half. (To clarify, during sudden cardiac death, the heart just stops. While this is often linked to an irregular heartbeat, often doctors don't know the underlying cause.)

By the numbers:

  • Sedentary females were nearly 21 times more prone to sudden cardiac death.
  • Women who exercised more than two hours a week significantly reduced their odds to about three times the risk.
  • As women devoted more time to exercise, their odds of sudden cardiac death dropped anywhere from 10 percent (two to four hours weekly) to 56 percent (four to seven hours) to 69 percent (more than seven hours).

Researchers determined "the magic number" for enjoying heart-healthy benefits started at about four hours of exercise a week which is certainly in line with my recommendations, but only if you don't need to lose weight. It's virtually impossible to repay your exercise debt if you are overweight, unless you to move toward 90 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every day to lose weight and maintain that weight loss.

One other important factor about this study that plays into the success of your exercise regimen: The benefits were based on a moderate to vigorous exercise regimen. That's key because most people don't understand the level of intensity needed to do the job. For example. average walking, though beneficial for general health, isn't a sufficiently intense exercise for weight loss or heart benefits.

Fortunately, I have plenty of free resources available on my Web site to get you started today. And for detailed guidance about an exercise program, I urge you to read some of the latest columns by contributing editors Paul Chek and Ben Lerner.

Yahoo News May 6, 2005

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