‘Amazing’ news on obesity and exercise: 30 minutes a week can offset heart disease risk

There is good news for obese people, who are at risk for cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and those that can cause heart attacks: Exercising vigorously for 30 minutes a week can offset that risk.

And for those who find high-intensity exercise like running or HIIT (high-intensity interval training) challenging, 8 to 9 hours per week of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, will have the same effect.

The study, published in the journal British Journal of Sports Medicine, They found that obese people with abdominal fat who exercised did not have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death compared with people who did not have fat around their waist.

“We were surprised to see that the risk of having a high waist circumference was completely higher in those who were more active,” said researcher Melody Ding, a professor of public health at the University of Sydney.

Obese people who are unable to exercise vigorously can do moderate exercise, such as jogging or walking, to offset their risk of developing cardiovascular disease, but they will need to do so for 8 to 9 hours a week, a study suggests. Photo: Shutterstock

The research used data from more than 70,000 participants aged 37 to 73, 56 percent of whom were women.

While exercising at different intensities, they wore wrist-worn accelerometers that track movement, orientation and activity levels to measure the link between belly fat and heart disease risk.

Vigorous intensity exercise includes exercise that significantly increases the heart rate, causing a person to become short of breath. This may include:

  • run

  • swim

  • ride a bike fast or uphill

  • Climbing stairs

  • skipping

  • aerobics: and

  • Sports such as football, rugby, netball and hockey.

Moderate intensity exercise might include:

  • walking

  • water aerobics

  • riding a bike

  • dance

  • Playing doubles tennis.

Light-intensity activities require even less effort and are often done incidentally, such as walking or doing housework.

The results suggest that physical activity of any intensity can mitigate or even offset the link between abdominal fat and cardiovascular disease. Those who exercised at moderate to vigorous intensity experienced the greatest benefit, while those who were relatively inactive were at greater risk.

The final message is that everyone should be as active as they can be according to their ability.

Researcher Melody Ding, professor of public health

While it would appear that vigorous exercise such as running may be 15 times more effective than a gentle walk in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, Ding cautioned against interpreting the results in this way.

“The moral is that everyone should be as active as they can be,” he said. “If all you can do is light intensity, it’s important to encourage that.”

Some activities, such as balance training and stretching, are light in nature but should still be encouraged, says Professor Melody Ding, who suggests everyone should be as active as they can. Photo: Shutterstock

Lead author Adriano Sánchez-Lastra, of the University of Vigo in Spain, said high-intensity activity should be prioritized when time is limited.

“Incorporating short bursts of higher intensity activity into daily life may be more efficient and achievable than attempting much longer periods of lower intensity physical activity,” she added.

Obesity is a leading cause of heart and cardiovascular disease, but obesity rates continue to rise in China. A report by the National Health Commission showed that adult obesity rates had more than doubled, rising from 7.1% in 2002 to 16.4% in 2020, and that more than half of adults in China, More than 500 million people were overweight..
Researcher Melody Ding is a professor of public health at the University of Sydney. Photo: Melody Ding
The authors of the recent study on obesity and exercise said Current recommendations for physical activity Recommendations of 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity per week suggested that moderate exercise was only half as effective as vigorous-intensity exercise.

“We found that approximately 15 times more moderate to vigorous physical activity was needed to mitigate the association between (abdominal fat) and incident cardiovascular disease, compared with vigorous physical activity,” the study authors said.

“This difference can be explained by higher intensity physical activity leading to improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness, also known as The paradox of being fat but fit.”

Too much focus on weight could discourage people and stigmatize obesity.

Professor Ding on the need to promote exercise, not weight loss
Previous studies have shown short bouts of intense exercise It may improve cardiorespiratory fitness and have positive cardiovascular effects that may be greater than those of moderate-intensity activity.
Ding said the most important public health message was to move away from weight loss and focus on encouraging people to do so. Small amounts of vigorous exercise to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“Weight may not change easily and focusing too much on it could discourage people and stigmatize obesity,” Ding said.