New Spanish research has found that vigorous exercise could significantly lower a woman's risk of death from heart disease, cancer and other causes.
Carried out by researchers at University Hospital A Coruña, Spain, the new study looked at 4,714 adult women who were referred for a treadmill exercise echocardiography because they had -- or were suspected to have -- coronary artery disease.
The treadmill exercise echocardiography involves walking or running on a treadmill as the intensity gradually increases until the participants reach exhaustion. During the test, images were also taken of the participants' heart.
The participants' fitness levels were defined using Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) minutes per week (MET-mins/week). MET measures an individual's energy expenditure, with one MET defined as the energy it takes to sit quietly. Moderate-intensity activities burn around 3 to 6 METs, and vigorous-intensity activities burn more than 6 METs.
In this study, women who achieved 10 METs or more were defined as having a good exercise capacity and compared to women who achieved less than 10 METs, who were defined as having a poor exercise capacity.
The findings, which were presented on Saturday at EuroEcho 2019, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) showed that after taking into account possibly influencing factors, METs were significantly associated with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other causes.
More specifically, the annual rate of death from cardiovascular disease was nearly four times higher in women with poor exercise capacity, compared to those with good, (2.2 percent versus 0.6 percent), and annual cancer deaths were doubled in patients with poor, compared to good, exercise capacity (0.9 percent versus 0.4 percent). The annual rate of death from other causes was more than four times higher in those with poor, compared to good, exercise capacity (1.4 percent vs. 0.3 percent).
After looking at the images taken of the participants' hearts, the researchers also found that patients with poor heart function during exercise had a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease during follow-up, although heart function during exercise was not linked with the risk of death from cancer or other causes.
Study author Dr. Jesús Peteiro commented on the findings by advising women to "exercise as much as you can. Fitness protects against death from any cause."
"Looking at both examinations together, women whose heart works normally during exercise are unlikely to have a cardiovascular event. But if their exercise capacity is poor, they are still at risk of death from cancer or other causes. The best situation is to have normal heart performance during exercise and good exercise capacity," said Dr. Peteiro.