One in 12 deaths can be prevented with 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week, according to a study that tracked over 1.3 lakh people in 17 countries, including 24,000 in India. The study appears in The Lancet Friday. Over several years, the researchers recorded information on cardiovascular disease and death, and whether the participants followed physical activity guidelines as recommended by the World Health Organization. WHO recommends that adults aged 18-64 do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity through the week, as well as muscle strengthening exercises at least twice a week.
Of those who met the guidelines (1.07 lakh), 3.8% developed cardiovascular disease, compared to 5.1% of those (23,000) who did not. Risk of mortality was lower for people met the guidelines — 4.2%, compared to 6.4%.
The findings suggest, the researchers say, that if the entire population met these guidelines, it would prevent 8% of deaths (1 in 12) and 4.6% (1 in 20) of cardiovascular disease cases. If the entire population was highly active — 750 minutes of physical activity a week — 1 in 8 deaths, and 1 in 10 cases of cardiovascular disease, could be prevented.
“One in 20 cases of cardiovascular disease could be prevented if everyone did 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week – whether it’s going to the gym, walking to work, or household chores,” the study’s lead author, Prof Scott Lear, Heart and Stroke Foundation chair in cardiovascular prevention research at St Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver, told The Indian Express. “Being highly active is associated with an even greater reduction, and we found that this was more achievable for those who built physical activity into their day through active transport, job type, or housework.”
Co-author Dr Rajeev Gupta, chief of the research division at Rajasthan University of Health Sciences, said 24,000 participants were from Thiruvananthapuram, Jaipur, Bengaluru, Chennai and Chandigarh. “We assessed these people from 2003 and 2008 and have been following them up for 6.5 years for cardiovascular events,” Gupta said.
Recreation time was limited among the Indian participants, the findings indicated. “We do not have country-level or site-level data as it was pooled and analysed centrally in Canada,” said co-author Dr R M Anjana, vice president, Madras Diabetic Research Foundation, Chennai. “India belongs to the low income category and here, the overall mortality plus cardiovascular diseases was less by 24%; mortality alone was less by 27%; major cardiovascular diseases alone was less by 17%,” Dr Anjana told The Indian Express.
Recent data from an Indian Council of Medical Research study, led by Dr Anjana, showed that out of 14,227 individuals studied for physical activity levels, 54.4% were inactive (not meeting WHO guidelines), 31.9% were active and 13.7% were highly active.
“From other studies we know that physical inactivity has been on the rise in India, as has the prevalence of obesity and diabetes. This is coincident with the increasing economic prosperity in the country,” Prof Scott said.
Global Burden of Disease data shows 6 million people died due to noncommunicable diseases in India in 2016. Dr Shifalika Goenka of the Public Health Foundation of India and the Centre for Chronic Disease Control, India — who has written a commentary with the study — told The Indian Express, “Cardiovascular disease is known to have devastating effects on individuals and families. In low-income and lower-middle-income countries, cardiovascular disease can push people to below the poverty line. Creating a physical, social, and political environment where physical activity in daily living is desirable, accessible, and safe should be a developmental imperative.”