CV Benefits of Exercise Examined

(HealthDay News) — Moderate exercise is associated with reduced mortality for heart attack survivors, and elite athletes have lower cardiovascular disease and cancer death, according to two studies published online in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Paul T. Williams, PhD, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, and Paul D. Thompson, MD, from Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, examined the correlation between exercise and mortality in 2,377 self-identified heart attack survivors. 

During an average prospective follow-up of 10.4 years, the researchers identified 526 deaths, of which 71.5% were related to cardiovascular disease (CVD). The average risk reduction was 15% through 7.2 metabolic equivalents of task hour/day (MET-h/d; P<.001), but for more than 7.2 MET-h/d there was a 2.6-fold increase in CVD-related mortality (P=.009).

Nuria Garatachea, PhD, from the University of Zaragoza in Huesca, Spain, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of observational studies to examine mortality in elite athletes. The researchers included 10 studies, with data on 42,807 athletes. 

The all-cause pooled standard mortality ratio was 0.67 (P<.001), with no publication bias (P=.24), but significant heterogeneity (I2 = 96%). The pooled standard mortality ratio was 0.73 (P<.001) when only CVD was considered as a cause of mortality. 

For cancer, the standard mortality ratio was 0.60 (P=.03).

“The evidence available indicates that top-level athletes live longer than the general population and have a lower risk of two major causes of mortality, namely, CVD and cancer,” Garatachea and colleagues wrote.

In an accompanying editorial, James H. O’Keefe, MD, of Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, University of Missouri-Kansas City, and colleagues commented on the benefits of exercise and treating physical activity as a drug.

“Exercise is unparalleled for its ability to improve CV health, quality of life, and overall longevity. If the current mantra ‘exercise is medicine’ is embraced[physical activity] might be best analogized as a drug, with indications and contraindications, as well as issues related to underdosing and overdosing,” they wrote.

“As with any powerful therapy, establishing the safe and effective dose range is fundamentally important—an insufficiently low dose may not bestow full benefits, whereas an overdose may produce dangerous adverse effects that outweigh its benefits.”


  1. Williams PT and Thompson PD. Mayo Clin Proc. 2014;doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2014.05.006.
  2. Garatachea N et al. Mayo Clin Proc. 2014;doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2014.06.004.
  3. O’Keefe JH et al. Mayo Clin Proc. 2014;doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2014.07.007.