Physical activity (PA) has long been associated with a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD), but most research over the years has relied on self-reported levels of PA. Researchers turned to accelerometers, lightweight motion sensors that can be attached to a user’s wrist, to learn more about this trend, sharing their findings in PLOS Medicine.
“Objective measures, such as wrist-worn accelerometers, are able to incorporate all components of PA—frequency, intensity, and duration—as a continuous score and thus validly capture all PA undertaken,” wrote first author Rema Ramakrishnan, PhD, of the University of Oxford in the UK, and colleagues. “This is likely to be important since total energy expenditure is conceivably the primary pathway through which PA reduces risk of disease.”
Ramakrishnan et al. explored data from more than 90,000 participants with no prior history of CVD who wore an accelerometer for seven days from 2013 to 2015. Information was taken from the UK Biobank research database.
Overall, the team confirmed that PA was associated with a lower risk of CVD. In fact, they noted that “the greatest benefit is seen for those who are active at the highest level.”
“The inverse association that we found for accelerometer-measured PA and incident CVD is much stronger than that reported from questionnaire-based studies,” the authors wrote. “Notably, we saw no evidence of a higher risk of CVD, particularly stroke, in those engaging in high levels of PA.”
The team noted that one previous study, published in Circulation back in 2015, suggested that too much PA can actually start to negatively impact a person’s risk of CVD. Their findings, however, did not suggest that this was the case.
“The finding of no threshold effect aligns with the recommendations of the UK Chief Medical Officer’s report on PA that ‘some physical activity is good but more is better,’” the authors concluded.
Read the full study here.