How much is one hour each day worth to you? What if that one hour were devoted to exercise, and that it could lower your risk of heart failure by almost 50 percent?

According to the results of a new study from Sweden, an hour or more of moderate or half an hour of vigorous exercise per day could lower a person’s risk of heart failure by 46 percent. The risk of death for someone diagnosed with congestive heart failure within five years of diagnosis is 30 percent to 50 percent, researchers noted.

In the United States alone, an estimated 5.7 million adults have congestive heart failure. Heart failure is not only disabling for the victim, it accounts for about 2 percent of total healthcare costs in industrialized countries. Yet, to date, associations between heart failure and physical activity have not been widely studied.

To shed more light on the subject, researchers in Sweden looked at the results of the questionnaire of lifestyle factors and medical history completed by 39,805 people 20-90 years old in 1997. The researchers then focused on the effects of self-reported total and leisure-time physical activity on risk of heart failure. Sections on the questionnaire included physical activity, alcohol consumption, smoking habits and medication use.

Total physical activity included both job-related activities and leisure activities. Leisure physical activity was divided into three categories: light, such as casual walking; moderate, such as jogging or swimming; and heavy, such as competitive sports. Diagnoses, hospitalizations and deaths were verified using participants’ medical records until Dec. 31, 2010, marking the end of the study period.

In general, what the researchers found was that the more active a person, the lower their risk of heart failure. The findings showed that greater leisure-time physical activity was associated with lower risk of heart failure of any cause. Not surprisingly, a greater total daily physical activity level was associated with lower risk of heart failure, as well.

Other findings were that physical activity was equally beneficial for men and women, that the group with the highest leisure time activity (defined in the study as more than one hour of moderate or half an hour of vigorous physical activity per day) had a 46 percent lower risk of developing heart failure. In terms of demographics, participants who developed heart failure during the study period tended to be older, male, a higher body mass index and waist-hip ratio, and a history of heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The findings of the study appear to uphold the concept that continued physical activity for adults is important, and they support the 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity every week recommended by the American Heart Association. A specific recommendation by the association for those who need to lower their blood pressure and cholesterol is 40 minutes, 3-4 times each week.


Andersen, Kasper, et al. “Dose-response relations of total and leisure-time physical activity to risk of heart failure: a prospective cohort study.” (2014).

NFPT Staff Writer

NFPT Staff Writers contribute in various ways to the NFPT blog