A new study published on Sunday in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine investigated more than 55000 people to answer the question if genetics is synonymous with destiny when it comes to developing heart disease or whether the risk can be offset by a healthy lifestyle.
The study found that those with even the worst genetic risk, but a favorable lifestyle (defined not smoking, eating a diet rich in fruits, grains and vegetables and exercising moderately) had a 50% lower risk of developing heart disease than those with high genetic risk but unfavorable lifestyle.
In 2006, a study by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology which included 56000 men and women, found that a single weekly bout of high intensity exercise with energy cost of ca. 600 kcals could reduce risk of dying from heart disease by as much as 39% in men and 51% in women.
Indeed, in a study published in Circulation the same group of researchers found that exercising at high intensity 3x per week for 16 weeks improved fitness and reversed the risk factors for metabolic syndrome. Fitness is a powerful predictor of health, in fact more powerful than the traditionally used risk factors such as smoking, alcohol, blood pressure or cholesterol. Even small improvements in fitness associate with improved longevity and lower risk of premature death from heart disease and other causes.
When comparing 1×4 minute training (where subjects exercised for 4 minutes at high intensity) to commonly used 4×4 training (where subjects performed four 4 minute intervals at high intensity) over the course of 10 weeks, the Norwegian researchers found that the two training regimens were comparable in their ability to improve fitness. After 10 weeks, fitness improved by ca. 10% after of 1×4 and 13% after 4×4 training.
These results show that little high intensity exercise goes a long way when it comes to health benefits. So to reduce your risk of developing disease, get up and move! Your body will thank you!
Ulrik Wisløff, leader of CERG and Nina Zisko, PhD student