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Original article| Volume 91, ISSUE 6, P745-754, June 2016

Lifelong Exercise Patterns and Cardiovascular Health



      To determine the relationship between lifelong exercise dose and the prevalence of cardiovascular morbidity.

      Patients and Methods

      From June 1, 2011, through December 31, 2014, 21,266 individuals completed an online questionnaire regarding their lifelong exercise patterns and cardiovascular health status. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) was defined as a diagnosis of myocardial infarction, stroke, or heart failure, and cardiovascular risk factors (CVRFs) were defined as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, or type 2 diabetes. Lifelong exercise patterns were measured over a median of 32 years for 405 patients with CVD, 1379 patients with CVRFs, and 10,656 controls. Participants were categorized into nonexercisers and quintiles (Q1–Q5) of exercise dose (metabolic equivalent task [MET] minutes per week).


      The CVD/CVRF prevalence was lower for each exercise quintile compared with nonexercisers (CVD: nonexercisers, 9.6% vs Q1: 4.4%, Q2: 2.8%, Q3: 2.4%, Q4: 3.6%, Q5: 3.9%; P<.001; CVRF: nonexercisers, 24.6% vs Q1: 13.8%, Q2: 10.2%, Q3: 9.0%, Q4: 9.4%, Q5: 12.0%; P<.001). The lowest exercise dose (Q1) significantly reduced CVD and CVRF prevalence, but the largest reductions were found at 764 to 1091 MET-min/wk for CVD (adjusted odds ratio=0.31; 95% CI, 0.20-0.48) and CVRFs (adjusted odds ratio=0.36; 95% CI, 0.28-0.47). The CVD/CVRF prevalence did not further decrease in higher exercise dose groups. Exercise intensity did not influence the relationship between exercise patterns and CVD or CVRFs.


      These findings demonstrate a curvilinear relationship between lifelong exercise patterns and cardiovascular morbidity. Low exercise doses can effectively reduce CVD/CVRF prevalence, but engagement in exercise for 764 to 1091 MET-min/wk is associated with the lowest CVD/CVRF prevalence. Higher exercise doses do not yield additional benefits.

      Abbreviations and Acronyms:

      CVD (cardiovascular disease), CVRF (cardiovascular risk factor), MET (metabolic equivalent of task), OR (odds ratio), Q (quintile)
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