New study shows intense physical activities can benefit heart health

Well, it is not new to us that the harder you do physical activity, the more your heart rate will increase. Hence, exercising or working out is relatively connected to your cardiovascular health. And some of us, in the hope of losing weight faster or going with the flow with our momentum, may do intense workouts. The good news is… a recent research study has confirmed that intense exercise is actually better for heart health. So keep it up!

What is considered an intense exercise? 

Intense exercise, also called vigorous-intensity exercise, high-intensity exercise or physical activity, refers to physical activities executed with a large amount of effort needed. It often results in a significantly increased heart rate and rapid breathing compared with your normal or moderate exercises. Some examples of intense exercises are cycling at 10 mph or faster, hiking uphill at a steady pace and playing singles tennis [1]. So, how does this better for your heart health?

All about the recent study 

A group of researchers has found out that intense physical activity can increase heart health benefits. This research was published on 27 October 2022 by the European Heart Journal [2].

Activity trackers of more than 88,000 people 

The study was participated by exactly 88,412 people in the United Kingdom Biobank middle-aged adults without any cardiovascular diseases. In order for the researcher to observe the participants, they required them to wear electronic devices to track their heart rates and activity levels for 7 days. They have to wear it on their dominant wrist to accurately track their physical activities. 


They found that while you can reap benefits from any physical activity, there are more benefits if you do intense exercise. You can also significantly reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases by doing at least moderate-intensity exercises. There is a substantial benefit of intense exercises rather than average ones. 

Furthermore, you can lower your cardiovascular disease rate by 14 percent when you do moderate to vigorous physical activity accounts for 20 percent, compared with only 10 percent of your overall physical energy spending, considering as well those that had low levels of activity. Basically, this can be equivalent to turning your daily stroll of 14 minutes into a brisk walk for 7 minutes. 

The researchers and critics 

The mentioned claims were from the researchers at the University of Cambridge,  National Institute for Health and Care Research or NIHR and Leicester Biomedical Research Centre. 

One of them is Dr Paddy Dempsey, who is a researcher at the University of Leicester and the Medical Research Council’s epidemiology unit at the University of Cambridge. According to Dr Dempsey, it would not have been likely to identify the benefits of more vigorous physical activity from the overall physical activity volume without accurate records of its duration and intensity. 

The wearable devices helped the researcher to accurately detect and document the intensity and duration of the movement. The moderate and vigorous intensity activities provide a greater decrease in the major risk of dying early. 

Moreover, more vigorous physical activity can potentially decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). This is over and above the benefit shown from the total amount of physical activity because it stimulates the body to be able to adapt to the higher effort required.

Additionally, Professor Tom Yates of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and health at the university further added that they found that achieving a similar overall amount of physical activity through higher-intensity activity shows a more helpful heart health benefit [3].

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‘Every move counts’

The researchers also promote the concept of  ‘every move counts’, allowing people to start with small steps in doing physical activities. They also urge people to incorporate more moderately intense activities, like brisk walking. 

UK Chief Medical Officers have released guidelines about the recommended physical activity for adults – about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every day or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity [4].

Another study on physical activity

In another study published on 29 August 2022, it was also proved that people who participated in moderate-intensity or intense exercise had a reduced risk of having heart failure [5].

Six years study period and researchers

The researchers used data obtained objectively and did not directly rely on data that the participants self-reported. The participants also used tracking devices for their physical activity records. They compare people who performed either moderate or vigorous physical activities with those who had either minimal or no physical activities at all. The study revolves mainly around comparison and observation. For six years, the researchers accessed the participants’ activity details and health records to check what percentage of them had suffered from heart failure [6].

One of the researchers is Professor Frederick K Ho from the University of Glasgow in Scotland who is also a public health lecturer. According to him, there are numerous possible ways that regular physical activity can potentially decrease the risk of developing heart failure. Of course, physical activity helps in preventing weight gain and developing any related cardiometabolic condition, including high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.


Furthermore, it was found in the findings that adults who performed between 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activities in the week had a 63 percent decreased risk of heart failure. While the adults who logged between 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity lowered their probability of heart failure by 66 percent. 

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Does the result apply to all people? 

When it comes to its limitations, some critics like Dr Sandra Chaparro who are the medical director of the Advanced Heart Failure for Baptist Health’s Miami Cardiac and Vascular Institute, emphasised that: “Most of the patients were white, and the study does not provide a direct link between exercise and heart failure prevention.  Nevertheless, it is a powerful databank that highlights an important tool to decrease the risk of developing heart failure.”

Physical activities to enhance heart health

It is important for people to engage in more physical activity, as suggested by this study and the other one mentioned. You should incorporate physical activity into your everyday life, making it a habit or part of your lifestyle. In fact, you don’t need to really do intense exercise, but the fact that you have regular physical movements is still beneficial for your heart health. 

The findings from these two studies prove that every physical movement counts in supporting your heart health. A simple 10-minute walk is way better than sitting and laying in bed, most especially if you do a brisk walk. Physical activities do not have to be more exercise, you can also try gardening or sports where you have an aim for each time you do them. 

It is recommended as well to do at least 45 minutes per day of moderate-intensity exercise. If you can do more than this, the ideal is 600 minutes per week to receive optimal benefits [7].

More tips to improve heart health

Aside from intense exercise, you can also opt for the following ways to support and improve your heart health:

  • Know your health history Determining your health risks can give you an idea of which is good and which is not for you. Consistent annual check-ups for this are a must. 
  • Eat a healthy diet – As cliche as it may sound, a healthy diet can drastically enhance your overall health. Better make healthy food choices that are more of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. You should consume less salt, saturated fat and added sugar.
  • Move more, sit less – Do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week. You may want to include muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week.
  • Quit smoking – smoking can give you fatal diseases; hence, you must start quitting to improve your heart health. 
  • Take medicines as directed – Don’t self-medicate and always follow your doctor’s prescriptions. 
  • Choose your drinks wisely – You can simply substitute water for sugary or sweetened drinks to decrease calorie intake. Drinking alcohol should be in moderation and must limit consumption to none or one drink a day preferably for women and two for men on days that alcohol is consumed.
  • Blood pressure monitoring – Always check your blood sugar and blood pressure. You can do it at home which is easy and convenient.
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