Regular aerobic exercise, known as “cardio” (in fluent Greek…) is associated with a significantly lower risk of death from influenza or pneumonia. The benefits even appear to hold even when someone exercises less than the weekly recommendation, according to a new US study published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
However, the study also found that there is a “ceiling” for the benefits of aerobic exercise against death from the flu or pneumonia. In fact, with regards to muscle-strengthening exercises, it seemed that too much exercise would probably… eat the master, as it may be linked to an increased risk of death from influenza or pneumonia.
But what are the current recommendations for aerobic exercise? Therefore, it is recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week or 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise combined with moderate- or high-intensity muscle-strengthening exercise at least twice a week. Aerobic exercise includes brisk walking, swimming, running, stair climbing. Muscle-strengthening exercises include free weights and resistance bands, as well as exercises such as deep crunches, lunges, trunk presses (calisthenics), and “heavy” gardening.
In the context of the new study, the researchers drew on data from 577,909 adults who had participated in the US National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) between 1998 and 2018.
Participants were asked how often they did aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening exercises. Five levels of physical activity were identified: less than 10 minutes per week, 10-149 minutes, 150-300 minutes, 301-600 minutes, and more than 600 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic exercise. At the same time less than 2, 2, 3, 4-6 and 7 or more sessions of muscle strengthening exercises per week were determined.
Half missed the targets
Half of the participants (50.5%) did not touch either of the two targets. A third (34%) did not do any aerobic exercise, while more than three-quarters (78%) reported that they did strength training less than twice a week.
During an average follow-up period of nine years, 81,431 participants died, of which 1,516 were due to influenza or pneumonia.
Reduce the risk of death
The analysis showed that people who met both weekly exercise goals (both aerobic and muscle-strengthening) had a 48 percent lower risk of dying from the flu or pneumonia compared with their peers who didn’t meet either goal, the result after having into account other factors that could influence the risk of death.
But even people who only met the aerobic exercise goal had a reduced risk of dying from the flu or pneumonia, specifically by 36%. As for people who only met the muscle-strengthening goal, there didn’t appear to be a connection to a reduced risk of death.
The connection to the… amount of exercise
Regarding the amount of exercise, participants who did between 10 and 149 minutes of aerobic exercise per week had a 21% lower risk of death. Those who did 150 to 300 minutes a week had a 41% lower risk of death and those who did 301 to 600 minutes a week had a 50% lower risk of death compared to those who did not do aerobic exercise . However, there was no additional benefit for people who got more than 600 minutes of aerobic exercise a week.
Benefits even with “insufficient” exercise
“Although 10 to 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week is considered insufficient as less than recommended, it may have significant health benefits compared with no physical activity,” the researchers write.
Too much muscle development… eats the master
When it came to strength training, people who met the goal of 2 sessions per week had a 47% lower risk of dying from the flu or pneumonia compared to those who did less than twice a week. However, those who overindulged, meaning they did more than seven sessions a week, faced a 41% increased risk of death from the flu or pneumonia.
It should be noted, of course, that this study was an observational study and as such cannot prove a cause-and-effect relationship. However, the researchers conclude by stating that “efforts to reduce mortality from pneumonia and influenza in adults could focus on increasing aerobic activity and achieving the goal of muscle-strengthening exercise twice a week.”