August 1st, 2011

Moderate Exercise Delivers the Biggest Bang for the Buck

Although the beneficial effects of physical activity in lowering risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) have been long recognized, the relative benefits of different levels of activity are not well understood. Now, a meta-analysis published in Circulation helps fill this significant gap.

Jacob Sattelmair and colleagues identified nine studies that provided quantitative data about the effects of leisure-time physical activity. They found, when compared to people who did not exercise:

  • a 14% lower risk for CHD ( (RR 0.86; CI 0.77-0.96) among people who exercised 150 min/wk.
  • a 20% lower risk for CHD ( (RR 0.80; CI 0.74-0.88) among people who exercised 300 min/wk.

People who exercised more than 300 min/wk enjoyed only a modest further decrease in risk. Women appeared to benefit more than men (p=0.03 for interaction by sex).

These results, write the authors, suggest “that the biggest bang for the buck for coronary heart disease risk
reduction occurs at the lower end of the activity spectrum: very modest, achievable levels of physical activity.”

“The overall findings of the study corroborate federal guidelines – even a little bit of exercise is good, but more is better – 150 minutes of exercise per week is beneficial, 300 minutes per week will give even more benefits,” said  Sattelmair, in a press release issued by the AHA.

One Response to “Moderate Exercise Delivers the Biggest Bang for the Buck”

  1. Leonard S. Sommer, B.S., Yale; M.D., Columbia says:

    Interesting trend favoring life-style changes suggests maximizing such approaches before interventional procedures. An interesting question is, “Why were the former not considered adequate measures, thus leading to introduction and evaluation of the latter?”

    Competing interests pertaining specifically to this post, comment, or both:
    No conflicts of interest, retired from academic medicine for 10 years.