Those with heart disease could benefit even more from doing exercise than healthy individuals

New research highlights the importance of getting out and staying active during the winter months

New research has found for the first time that although keeping physically active can reduce the risk of death for many of us, those who have cardiovascular disease (CVD) may reap the biggest benefits.

Led by researchers at Seoul National University in Seoul, Korea, the new large-scale study looked at data gathered from a total of 441,798 participants with and without CVD with an average age of 60.

The participants completed a health screening program between 2009 and 2015 and completed surveys which asked the participants to report on how much physical activity they had done in the past seven days. This information then was then used to determine each participant's Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) minutes per week (MET-mins/week).

MET measures an individual's energy expenditure, with one MET defined as the energy it takes to sit quietly. Moderate-intensity activities burn around 3 to 6 METs, and vigorous-intensity activities burn more than 6 METs. Current guidelines recommend 500-1000 MET-minutes per week of regular physical activity.

The findings, which were presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology in addition to being published in the European Heart Journal, showed that increased physical activity reduced the risk of dying for those with and without CVD.

However, it was the participants with CVD who showed the greatest reduction in risk -- for every 500 MET-mins/week the risk of death was reduced by 14 for those with CVD and 7 percent for those without.

In addition, the more exercise participants with CVD did, the greater the reduction in the risk of death.

Lead author Dr. Sang-Woo Jeong commented on the findings saying, "People with cardiovascular disease had lower levels of physical activity than those without, but the more exercise people did, the lower their risk of death during the six years of follow-up. The main new finding of this study is that people with cardiovascular disease benefit from a physically active lifestyle to a greater extent than healthy people without cardiovascular disease."

"The 2016 ESC guideline for primary prevention recommends healthy adults of all ages should perform at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination," said co-author Dr. Si-Hyuck Kang. "One way you can achieve 500 MET-minutes a week is to do brisk walking for 30 minutes, five times a week. If you are very busy and have no time to work out during weekdays, the other way to achieve approximately 500 MET-minutes a week is to do vigorous physical activity such as climbing hills with no loads for 75 minutes once a week. You can achieve 1500 MET-minutes a week by doing brisk walking for 30 minutes five times a week plus climbing hills for 2.5 hours once a week."