Those who do the most exercise have the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease, a new study from the University of Oxford has found.
For years there has been a debate over whether too much strenuous exercise could cause a build-up of plaque in the heart which may lead to heart disease. This caused some scientists to advise against doing extreme amounts of cardio, the likes of which has become more popular over the last 50 years with the rise of marathon running.
But this new evidence will be encouraging to athletes who get out the door and push their limits.
The huge study took data from 90,211 UK Biobank participants who had no prior cardiovascular disease. Each participant wore an accelerometer to measure their physical activity over the course of seven days between 2013 and 2015 and was then followed for over five years.
Levels of moderate-intensity, high-intensity and total exercise were assessed, and the researchers found that people in every increasing quartile of each type of exercise were less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease.
For example, when it came to moderate-intensity exercise those in the second quartile were 71 per cent as likely to have cardiovascular disease as those in the first quartile, those in the third quartile were 59 per cent as likely and those in the top quartile were 46 per cent as likely.
This not only indicates no greater risk from higher volumes of exercise but enhanced protection against cardiovascular disease.
The study also found those who were least physically active tended to smoke more, had a higher BMI and were more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Associate Professor Aiden Doherty, a lead author of the study, said: "This is the largest ever study of exquisite device-measured physical activity and cardiovascular disease. It shows that physical activity is probably even more important for the prevention of cardiovascular disease than we previously thought.
“Our findings lend further weight to the new WHO guidelines on physical activity which recommend at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week for all adults."
Professor Terry Dwyer, another lead author, said: “The results of this study enhance confidence that physical activity is likely to be an important way of preventing cardiovascular disease.