Regular aerobic exercise reduces the risk of death from influenza and pneumonia


Regular aerobic exercise, commonly known as “cardio,” is associated with a lower risk of death from the flu or pneumonia, even at weekly levels below those recommended, according to US research published online in British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The study: Leisure physical activity and mortality from influenza and pneumonia: a cohort study of 577,909 adults in the United States.  Image credit: BGStock72/Shutterstock

Stady: Leisure physical activity and mortality from influenza and pneumonia: a cohort study of 577,909 adults in the United States.. Image credit: BGStock72/Shutterstock

But the results suggest that there may be a higher level of effects plateauing or may become harmful in the case of muscle-strengthening activities.

It is recommended that adults do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity, 75 minutes of vigorous intensity, aerobic physical activity, or a similar combination, plus muscle-strengthening activity of moderate or vigorous intensity at least twice per week.

Aerobic exercise, which includes brisk/brisk walking, swimming, running, and climbing stairs, is continuous, which increases heart rate and works up perspiration. Muscle-strengthening activities include the use of weights and resistance bands; exercises such as squats, lunges and push-ups (calisthenics); and heavy gardening.

In addition to helping maintain good health and ward off serious illness, regular physical activity may also protect against death from the flu or pneumonia, evidence suggests.

Therefore, the researchers wanted to know if specific types and amounts of physical activity were associated with this reduced risk.

They were based on the responses of 577,909 adults who participated in the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) representing the United States between 1998 and 2018.

Respondents were asked how often they spent 10 minutes or more on vigorous aerobic activity and light or moderate intensity. They were asked how often they did muscle-strengthening activities.

Then each person was ranked according to how well they met the recommended aerobic activity + weekly muscle-strengthening goals: neither were met; Achieve the goal of aerobic activity, achieve the goal of muscle strengthening, and achieve both goals.

Five levels of physical activity were defined: less than 10, 10-149, 150-300, 301-600, and more than 600 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity. and less than 2, 2, 3, 4-6, 7 or more sessions/week of muscle-strengthening activities.

Half of the respondents (50.5%) did not achieve any of the weekly target. How well they did varied significantly according to sociodemographic and lifestyle factors, underlying health conditions, and whether they had been vaccinated against influenza and/or pneumonia.

One-third (34%) were not aerobically active, and more than three-quarters (78%) reported less than two weekly muscle-strengthening sessions.

During an average observation period of 9 years, 81,431 participants died; 1,516 deaths were attributed to influenza and pneumonia.

Those who met the two recommended weekly physical activity goals had nearly half (48%) the risk of dying from influenza or pneumonia as their peers who did not meet either, after accounting for possible influencing factors.

Achieving the aerobic activity-only goal was associated with a 36% lower risk after accounting for potential influencing factors, while achieving the muscle-strengthening-only goal was not associated with any significant difference in risk.

In quantitative terms, logging 10-149, 150-300, and 301-600 minutes/week of aerobic physical activity was respectively associated with 21%, 41%, and 50% lower risk, compared with no risk. However, no additional benefit was shown above 600 weekly minutes.

“despite of [10-150 mins/week] It is often classified as “insufficient” because it falls short of the recommended duration, and may confer health benefits relative to physical inactivity,” the researchers suggest.

When it came to muscle-strengthening activities, compared to as little as 2 weekly sessions, meeting the 2 weekly goal was associated with a 47% lower risk, but 7 or more sessions were associated with a 41% higher risk.

While outside the scope of this study, there are plausible explanations [for this dichotomy] They range from inaccurate responses (such as reporting occupational physical activity, which may not confer the same protective effect as leisure physical activity) to the haemodynamic repercussions of high-intensity repetitive dendrites. [muscle strengthening activity]Explain the researchers.

This is an observational study and, as such, cannot prove causation, which the researchers acknowledge have various limitations. For example, the study relied on personal recall. At some point in time, the NHIS survey only captured leisure-time physical activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more, and did not distinguish between light and moderate-intensity activities.

However, the authors concluded: “Efforts to reduce influenza and pneumonia deaths in adults may focus on decreasing the prevalence of aerobic inactivity and increasing the prevalence of achieving two bouts per week of muscle-strengthening activity.”


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