Hearts are kept strong with regular physical activity, and daily activity like a brisk 20-minute walk is key; however, some groups may have additional barriers that affect whether or not a daily walk is feasible. Increasing levels of physical activity, particularly among people at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, has known benefits for heart health and may help reduce disparities in cardiovascular health, according to a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association published today. in Circulation.
The new statement, “Increasing equity in promoting physical activity for optimal cardiovascular health in adults,” examines physical activity levels among different groups of adults, reviews strategies for increasing physical activity in groups with few resources or at risk of poor cardiovascular health, and offers suggestions for how to promote physical activity to equitably reduce cardiovascular risk through physical activity.
“Helping everyone improve their heart health is important,” said Gerald J. Jerome, Ph.D., FAHA, volunteer chair of the scientific statement writing committee and professor in the department of kinesiology at Towson University in Towson, Maryland. “We found that many groups with poor heart health also had low levels of physical activity. We know that regular physical activity is an essential component of optimal heart health. These findings provide an opportunity to focus our efforts on physical activity programs in places where people need them most.”
Regular physical activity is a healthy lifestyle metric from Life’s Essential 8, the American Heart Association’s checklist for measuring cardiovascular health. Life’s Essential 8 details four health factors (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and body mass index); and four behavioral/lifestyle factors (smoking, physical activity, sleep, and diet) are proven to prevent and reduce cardiovascular risk.
Despite this, less than one in four American adults achieve the levels of physical activity recommended by US Department of Health and Human Services guidelines. Federal guidelines, backed by the American Heart Association, recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Getting closer to recommended levels can be as simple as a daily 20-minute walk.
Jerome and members of the writing committee reviewed the latest scientific evidence on physical activity programs designed to improve physical activity levels in specific populations. Physical activity levels were lower among certain groups of people with high risk factors for cardiovascular disease. For example, less physical activity was observed in older adults, women, black people, people with disabilities, people with depression, people with lower socioeconomic status or those who live in rural areas or neighborhoods less accessible by foot.
“Unfortunately, many groups that have a higher risk of developing heart disease also, on average, report less physical activity,” said Jerome. “There is good news, as some programs are focused on collaborating with communities to increase physical activity levels among high-risk groups.”
Attributes of successful physical activity programs
- Strategies to increase physical activity should seek community input, engagement and leadership, which can help ensure that barriers are addressed and community needs are met.
- Engaging communities in the design, implementation, and evaluation of physical activity programs is an important step in empowering their residents to improve heart health through increased physical activity. It also helps ensure that programs are culturally appropriate.
- Approaches to increasing physical activity must address common barriers such as cost, lack of access, lack of time, lack of knowledge, as well as barriers specific to the needs of a specific community.
- Increasing levels of physical activity to increase health equity requires a team approach, including health professionals who regularly assess and promote physical activity for all patients.
Once community supports are in place to reduce the barriers, the hope is that more people will become physically active and improve their heart health. There is still a lot to do in the long term, according to Jerome. “More research funding is needed to support communities and researchers working together to develop engaging and sustainable ways that help residents increase their physical activity levels. Policy makers should expand coverage for preventive care and support, such as evaluation and programs that promote physical activity in the clinical context.”
Increasing equity in promoting physical activity for optimal cardiovascular health in adults: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association, Circulation (2023). DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000001148
Provided by the American Heart Association
Quote: Physical activities like a daily 20-minute walk can help reduce disparities in heart health (2023, May 24) retrieved May 24, 2023 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2023-05-physical -daily-minute-disparities- heart.html
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