According to a large, multi-year study of men and their exercise habits, those who exercise a moderate amount may have a lower risk of heart failure.

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure, also suggests that this lower risk is compared to those men who have either lower or higher levels of physical activity.

Furthermore, the study suggests that recent active behavior may play a more important role in their risk of heart failure than their past amount of physical activity.

A media release from the American College of Cardiology notes that researchers followed 33,012 men from the Cohort of Swedish Men from 1998 until 2012—or the first event of heart failure. Overall, men who had the lowest and highest levels of physical activity had a higher risk of heart failure, 47% and 51%, respectively, than men with a median level.

The research team found that walking or bicycling for 20 minutes per day was associated with the largest risk reduction, the release continues.

Of the men diagnosed with heart failure during the course of the study, those who walked or bicycled for at least 20 minutes per day were approximately 8 months older compared to heart failure cases who had spent less than 20 minutes per day walking or bicycling, per the release.

Certain types of physical activity were associated with reduced risk of heart failure, such as walking and bicycling or exercising more than 1 hour per week. Meanwhile, occupation, household work, and physical inactivity were not significantly associated with heart failure development. Researchers also found that men who were active at 30 years old but were inactive at the time of study enrollment did not have a decreased risk of heart failure, the release explains.

“Because participants in the study cohort had also provided information about their physical activity at age 30, as well as at the time of enrollment around age 60, we were able to examine the long-term impacts of physical activity on heart failure,” said Andrea Bellavia, MSc, of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and one of the study authors, in the release.

“We found that recent activity may be more important for heart failure protection than past physical activity levels. The first incidence of heart failure in men was also later for those who actively walked or bicycled 20 minutes each day,” Bellavia continues.

While the study suggests that both low and high levels of physical activity, compared to more moderate levels, could increase the risk of heart failure in men, study authors caution in the release that the link between physical activity and heart disease is not fully understood. Heavy physical activity, such as long-distance running or manual labor, may put stress on the body, which in turn has adverse effects on the heart.

[Source(s): American College of Cardiology, Science Daily]