MONDAY, Aug. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Keeping up a leisure-time physical activity regimen for a decade or more could help middle-aged adults improve their heart health, researchers report.
Over time, routine activities -- such as brisk walking, biking, or even doing housework or gardening vigorously -- can reduce markers of inflammation, according to new research published in the Aug. 13 issue of Circulation.
"It's not just vigorous exercise and sports that are important," study author Mark Hamer, an associate professor of epidemiology and public health at University College London in England, said in a news release from the American Heart Association. "These leisure-time activities represent moderate-intensity exercise that is important to health. It is especially important for older people to be physically active because it contributes to successful aging," he added.
In conducting the study, the investigators asked more than 4,200 participants, average age 49, how long and how often they engaged in their leisure-time physical activities.
The researchers also analyzed two key markers of inflammation among the participants when the study began. These markers -- called C-reactive protein and interleukin 6 -- were re-assessed in the patients about 11 years later.
The findings revealed that the participants who were more active had lower markers of inflammation than the people who rarely got the recommended minimum of 2.5 hours per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity. This was also the case at the patients' follow-up assessment.
"Inflammatory markers are important because we have shown they are a key mechanism explaining the link between physical activity and the . . . risk of heart disease," explained Hamer. "The people who benefited the most from this study were the ones that remained physically active."
Overall, the researchers found that about 49 percent of the participa
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