Cardiovascular Benefits of Exercise Greater in Individuals With Anxiety, Depression
In This Article
- Previous research has indicated that physical activity benefits heart health by activating areas of the brain that counteract stress
- A recent Massachusetts General Hospital study reveals evidence that this benefit may nearly double in individuals with stress-related conditions
- An analysis of over 50,000 health records from the Mass General Brigham Biobank indicates that those who exercise at least 500 metabolic equivalent minutes per week are less likely to experience an adverse cardiovascular event
- An even greater risk reduction was found in individuals diagnosed with depression or anxiety
New research presented at the American College of Cardiology's 71st Annual Scientific Session & Expo and published in ScienceDaily suggests that individuals with depression or anxiety receive nearly twice the cardiovascular health benefits from exercise. These findings support previous evidence that indicated physical activity benefits heart health by activating parts of the brain that counteract stress.
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The study was led by Hadil Zureigat, MD, a postdoctoral clinical research fellow in the Department of Radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The team of researchers analyzed over 50,000 health records from the Mass General Brigham Biobank database, of which just over 4,000 individuals had suffered a major adverse cardiovascular event such as a heart attack, chest pain due to a blocked artery, or undergoing a procedure to open a blocked artery in the heart.
First, the researchers investigated the rates of major coronary events among patients who reported that they exercise at least 500 metabolic equivalent (MET) minutes per week and compared the rates to those who exercise less. This analysis revealed that individuals who exercise at least 500 MET-minutes or more each week were 17% less likely to experience an adverse cardiovascular event.
The team then assessed this pattern among patients diagnosed with depression or anxiety. The team's findings revealed a 22% risk reduction in those with anxiety and depression, versus a 10% risk reduction in those without.
Individuals with depression or anxiety are known to have higher stress-related neural activity. This study expands upon previous research that analyzed brain imaging to determine how physical activity may help reduce the brain's stress response and therefore benefit cardiovascular risk.
The researchers note that although this study used 500 MET-minutes per week as a benchmark, previous studies have shown that any amount of regular physical activity can benefit heart health. These findings underscore the importance of regular exercise in reducing stress and cardiovascular risk, particularly in individuals with anxiety or depression.
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