More Health Benefits of Regular Exercise
Frequent, strenuous exercise may help adults experience less anxiety and make them less likely to suffer from heart disease, according to two separate studies in Behavior Research and Therapy (2004;42:125–36) and American Journal of Cardiology (2004;93:221–5). Those with the highest exercise intensity had the lowest level of anxiety and lowest risk of developing heart disease.
In the first study, 54 adults between the ages of 18 and 51 years with anxiety sensitivity (fear of becoming anxious and anxiety-related sensations) completed six 20-minute treadmill exercise sessions over a two-week period. Participants were randomly assigned to perform high-intensity exercise (briskly walking or jogging on a treadmill to reach 60 to 90% of the maximum heart rate, depending on age) or low-intensity exercise (walking on a treadmill at 1 mph, so that 60% of maximum heart rate was never reached). Several questionnaires that measure the degree of anxiety and fear of anxious feelings (increased heart rate, heart palpitations, sweating, etc.) were administered initially, after the last exercise session, and at one week following the last exercise session.
All participants had significantly less anxiety sensitivity following both high- and low-intensity exercise. However, those in the high-intensity exercise group had a more rapid reduction in anxiety sensitivity, compared with those in the low-intensity exercise group. After the last treatment session, 52% of the high-intensity exercisers had less anxiety sensitivity, while only 20% of those in the low-intensity exercise group responded to treatment. Fear of anxious feelings was significantly reduced in the high-intensity exercise group, whereas no benefit was observed in the low-intensity exercise group. Although both exercise programs were effective in reducing anxiety sensitivity, the current study demonstrates that strenuous exercise is more effective than mild exercise in reducing anxiety.
As part of a separate study (Pravastatin Inflammation/CRP Evaluation or “PRINCE” study), information about the frequency of strenuous aerobic exercise was collected from 1,153 adults with a history of heart disease and 1,680 adults with no history of heart disease. The goal of the PRINCE study was to determine whether pravastatin, a cholesterol-lowering medication, would decrease blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a measure of inflammation in the body. High amounts of CRP in the blood suggest one may be at higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Blood levels of CRP were measured prior to starting treatment. Exercise frequency was recorded into one of four categories: less than once a week, once per week, two to three times per week, or four or more times per week.
Among the men, CRP blood levels dropped as the intensity of physical exercise increased; the lowest CRP blood levels were observed among men who reported the highest amount of strenuous aerobic exercise. However, the benefits of aerobic exercise in reducing CRP levels were not observed in women. It is not clear why CRP did not drop in women who exercised. Nonetheless, other studies have shown that women who exercise regularly have a lower risk of heart disease. It is likely that vigorous exercise lowers the risk of heart disease by means other than just lowering CRP.
Several studies have clearly demonstrated the health benefits of regular aerobic exercise, including weight loss, decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes, better quality of sleep, increased energy, and improved mood. In many of these studies, the greatest improvement was observed in those with the highest frequency, duration, or intensity of exercise. Types of aerobic exercise include walking briskly, running, cycling, swimming, and rowing. Please consult a healthcare provider before beginning a strenuous exercise program, as some exercise routines may not be suitable for individuals with an underlying health condition.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
Copyright © 2004 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Healthnotes® content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Healthnotes, Inc. Healthnotes Newswire is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Healthnotes, Inc. shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Healthnotes and the Healthnotes logo are registered trademarks of Healthnotes, Inc.