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Exercise at any size

May 15, 2017—Do you think a daily jog or bike ride is just for athletic types? Not so! Turns out, exercise does a body good at any size.

Researchers found that being active can help reduce levels of heart damage in people who are obese. In fact, it may be even more beneficial for obese people.

The study included 9,427 people ages 45 to 64 who did not have heart disease. Study participants had BMIs that ranged from normal to overweight to obese.

Participants were classed according to exercise levels:

  • One group who did no exercise.
  • One group who met recommended exercise levels—150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week, or an equivalent combination of the two.
  • A third group of "intermediate" exercisers, who did some activity but didn't meet recommended levels.

Study participants were also tested for blood markers that indicate heart damage, and which may be associated with future heart failure.

Researchers found that the no exercise and intermediate exercise groups were 39 percent and 34 percent more likely to have indicators of heart damage than people who met recommended exercise levels.

This was especially true for obese people who exercised as recommended. In fact, the exercise seems to be even more protective against heart disease in obese people.

Read more about the study in JACC: Heart Failure.

The take-home message

Exercise is great for a host of reasons beyond heart protection. It can:

  • Help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and some cancers.
  • Strengthen bones and muscles.
  • Boost mental health and mood.
  • Help you live longer.

Examples of moderate-intensity exercise are:

  • Brisk walking.
  • Playing doubles tennis.
  • Water aerobics.
  • General gardening or lawn work (e.g., pushing a mower).
  • Bicycling on relatively level terrain.

Examples of vigorous-intensity exercise are:

  • Running or jogging.
  • Singles tennis.
  • Jumping rope.
  • Hiking uphill.
  • Heavy gardening (e.g., continuous digging or hoeing).

Talk to your doctor before significantly increasing activity levels, especially if you have a chronic condition or it's been a long time since you exercised. Then start out slowly and work up gradually.

And work in that activity wherever you can. Even 10-minute increments can add up to better health.

Find tips and advice on exercising when you're overweight.

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