In the study, published Sept. 2 in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure, the group with the highest activity levels -- more than one hour of moderate or half an hour of vigorous activity daily -- had a 46 percent lower risk of developing heart failure.
The study findings reinforce recommendations to get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week, Andersen said. Higher-level activity can produce additional benefit, he said.
The study data didn't include what type of exercise was done. However, Andersen recommends exercise aimed at cardiovascular conditioning, such as jogging or walking. However, any type of activity is better than nothing, he said.
The study also didn't address whether starting to exercise at midlife is too late to obtain benefits. However, Andersen said, "I think there is good evidence [from other research] that no matter at what age you start to exercise, it has positive effects on your health."
While many studies have looked at the link between exercise and heart disease risk, few have looked at the specific link between exercise and the risk of developing heart failure, said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, professor of cardiology at the University of California, David Geffen School of Medicine.
Fonarow, who wasn't involved in the study, agreed with Andersen that exercise has many favorable effects -- on blood pressure, blood cholesterol and heart muscle health, for instance.
"Exercise lowers the risk of heart attack, which in turn can lower the risk of subsequent heart failure," said Fonarow, a spokesman for the American Heart Association. "There may be other favorable effects of exercise that directly impact the risk of heart failure."
Some other studies have shown that even after heart failure is diagnosed, patients can benefit from exercise, Fonarow said. "Exercise and cardiac rehabilitation programs are
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