HealthDay News — Is there a limit to the benefits of exercise? Two studies, published in Heart, suggest that, for certain patients, keeping to a moderate physical activity regimen may be best for heart health.

After studying 1,000 60-to-69-year-old patients who had stable heart diseases for 10 years, Ute Mons, of the Division of Clinical Epidemiology and Aging Research at the German Cancer Research Center, and colleagues found that 40% of patients exercised two to four times a week, 30% worked out more often, and 30% exercised less often.

Compared to patients who got regular exercise, the most inactive patients were twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke, and were about four times more likely to die of heart disease and all causes. However, those who did the most strenuous daily exercise were more than twice as likely to die of a heart attack compared to those who exercised more moderately.

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Another study included more than 44,000 Swedish patients aged 45 to 70 years, led by Nikola Drca, of the Department of Cardiology at the Karolinska Institute, and colleagues. All patients were asked about their physical activity levels at ages 15, 30, 50 years and throughout the previous year. Patients’ heart health was then tracked for an average of 12 years.

Patients who had done more intensive exercise for more than five hours a week when they were younger were 19% more likely to have developed atrial fibrillation by 60 years of age (RR of 1.19; 95% CI; 1.05-1.36) compared with patients who exercised for less than an hour a week.

That risk increased to 49% among patients who did more than five hours of exercise at age 30 years, but did less than an hour a week by the time they were age 60 years (RR, 1.49, 95% CI; 1.14-1.95).

“Maximum cardiovascular benefits are obtained if performed at moderate doses, while these benefits are lost with (very) high-intensity and prolonged efforts,” wrote researchers in an accompanying editorial.


  1. Mons U et al. Heart. 2014; doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2013-305242
  2. Drca N et al. Heart. 2014; doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2013-305304
  3. Mont L et al. Heart. 2014; doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2014-305780