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Physical Inactivity and Cardiovascular Disease

Taken from the New York State Department of Health at: http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/chronic/cvd.htm


Physical Inactivity and Cardiovascular Disease

What does the term physical inactivity mean?

Physical inactivity is a term used to identify people who do not get the recommended level of regular physical activity. The American Heart Association recommends 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times peer week to promote cardiovascular fitness. In 1996 the Report of the Surgeon General on Physical Activity and Health recommended the minimum level of physical activity required to achieve health benefits was a daily expenditure of 150 kilocalories in moderate or vigorous activities. This recommendation is consistent with guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and American College of Sports Medicine. It also is consistent with the 1996 consensus statement from the National Institutes of Health, recommending adults to accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. Moderate activities include pleasure walking, climbing stairs, gardening, yard work, moderate-to-heavy housework, dancing and home exercise. More vigorous aerobic activities, such as brisk walking running, swimming, bicycling, roller skating and jumping rope — done three or four times a week for 30-60 minutes — are best for improving the fitness of the heart and lungs.

What are the consequences of physical inactivity for cardiovascular disease (CVD)?

Regular physical activity reduces the risk of dying prematurely from CVD. It also helps prevent the development of diabetes, helps maintain weight loss, and reduces hypertension, which are all independent risk factors for CVD. Less active, less fit persons have a 30-50 percent greater risk of developing high blood pressure. Physical inactivity is a significant risk factor for CVD itself. It ranks similarly to cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol. One reason it has such a large affect on mortality is because of its prevalence. Twice as many adults in the United States are physically inactive than smoke cigarettes. Regular physical activity has been shown to help protect against first cardiac episode, help patients’ recovery from coronary surgeries, and will reduce the risk of recurrent cardiac events.

How large is the problem of physical inactivity in the United States?

It is estimated that approximately 35% of coronary heart disease mortality is due to physical inactivity. The significance of this relationship lies in the fact that coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States with over 700,000 deaths annually. Approximately 60% of all Americans age 18 and older report that they are physically inactive. Physical inactivity has a major economic impact. It is felt through the loss of income and productivity when disabling diseases result. It was estimated that in 1989 physical inactivity cost the nation $5.7 billion due to hospitalizations and other related health care costs.

What segments of the population are physically inactive?

Only about 22 percent of Americans report regular sustained physical activity (activity of any intensity lasting 30 minutes or more 5 times a week). Fifteen percent of Americans report vigorous activity (activity intense enough to make the heart beat fast and hard breathing for at least 20 minutes or more 3 times a week). Thus, improvements in physical activity can be gained in all segments of society. Physical inactivity is more prevalent among women, blacks and Hispanics, older adults and the less affluent. People with less than a 12th grade education are also more likely to be sedentary. In addition, people who are physically disabled, people with injures that limit movement, adolescents, adults who are overweight, women, and people with low incomes all have elevated levels of sedentary behavior.

Facts and statistics about physical inactivity in NYS:

BRFSS Reported levels of Physical Activity

Sedentary Lifestyle: no reported activity or any physical activity or pair of activities done for less than 20 minutes or less than three times per week.

Regular and Sustained: any physical activity or pair of physical activities that are done for 30 minutes or more per session, five or more times per week, regardless of intensity.

Regular and Vigorous: any physical activity or pair of activities done for at least 20 minutes, at least three times per week, that requires rhythmic contraction of large muscle groups at 50% of functional capacity.

chart of physical activitiy levels in New York interpreted below

  • 59% of the New York population reported a sedentary lifestyle
    • 58% of men
    • 60% of women
    • The nonwhite population had a 6% higher level of sedentary lifestyle
  • 20% of the population meets the criteria for regular and sustained activity levels.
    • 21% of men
    • 19% of women
    • The nonwhite population had a 4% higher level of regular and sustained physical activity
  • 14% of the population meets the criteria for regular and vigorous activity levels.
    • 13% of men
    • 15% of women
    • The nonwhite population had a 5% higher level of regular and vigorous physical activity
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