Vigorous exercise, the kind that makes you sweat, get red in the face and breathe hard, may be better than moderate exercise when it comes to living longer. This is according to Australian research, based on more than 200,000 adults over age 45, and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine.
The study participants were followed for more than six years.
Those who did jogging, aerobics or competitive tennis – vigorous exercise for 30 percent of their weekly workouts – had a mortality rate that was nine to 13 percent lower than those who did moderate exercise, like swimming, social tennis, or household chores.
Read: Moderate exercise increases life-expectancy
"The benefits of vigorous activity applied to men and women of all ages were independent of the total amount of time spent being active," said lead author Klaus Gebel from James Cook University's Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention.
"The results indicate that whether or not you are obese, and whether or not you have heart disease or diabetes, if you can manage some vigorous activity it could offer significant benefits for longevity."
Currently, the World Health Organisation urges adults to do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.
But the current research suggests that given the choice, people should opt for some higher intensity exercise if they can, and if their doctor agrees, the study authors said.
"Our research indicates that even small amounts of vigorous activity could help reduce your risk of early death," Gebel said.
Sudden cardiac arrest rare among the fit
"For those with medical conditions, for older people in general, and for those who have never done any vigorous activity or exercise before, it's always important to talk to a doctor first."
A separate study published in the journal Circulation, a publication of the American Heart Association, found that sudden cardiac death during sports activities is rare among middle aged people who are physically fit.
Read: Sudden cardiac death linked to a protein
Researchers reviewed more than 1,200 cases of sudden cardiac arrest – when the heart stops beating due to an electrical disturbance in the organ that stops vital blood flow – in men and women aged 35 to 65.
Only five percent of the cases involved occurred during exercise such as running, basketball or biking.
In two-thirds of the cases, patients had a previously documented cardiovascular disease or symptoms before the sudden cardiac arrest.
"Our study findings reinforce the idea of the high-benefit, low-risk nature of exercise in middle age and emphasise the importance of education to maximise safety, particularly as the population ages and more baby boomers increasingly take part in sports activities to prolong their lives," said senior author Sumeet Chugh, associate director for genomic cardiology at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, California.
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