Many people think the only reason for regular exercise is that it helps you maintain a healthy weight. Not true. A sedentary lifestyle can cancel the potential heart benefits of weight control, according to a study published online Dec. 4, 2018, by the American Journal of Cardiology. Researchers looked at five years' worth of health survey responses and weight calculations from thousands of overweight and normal-weight people ages 40 to 79 who'd never had heart disease. Scientists noted the participants' amount of abdominal fat, waist size, and self-reported amounts of physical activity, then calculated everyone's cardiovascular disease risk. The results: 30% of sedentary people with a normal weight had about the same risk for a heart attack or stroke as people who were overweight. Sedentary adults whose weight was normal also had higher levels of belly fat, shortness of breath upon exertion, and an unhealthy waist circumference compared with normal-weight adults who exercised regularly. However, people with a normal weight who exercised at least 150 minutes per week were 58% less likely to have a heart attack than those in the study who were overweight.
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.