MAY 09, 2024 9:00 AM PDT

Exercise Reduces Stress and Risk of Heart Disease

WRITTEN BY: Savannah Logan

New research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that physical activity improves heart health partially through reducing stress signaling in the brain.

Over 50,000 participants in the Mass General Brigham Biobank were included in the study. Participants completed a survey on their physical activity. Then, a subset of the participants (almost 800) underwent brain imaging to measure their stress-related neural activity. Over a median of 10 years of follow-up time, cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes were monitored in the participants. The goals of the study were to better understand how physical activity impacts stress-related neural activity, how this neural activity might impact cardiovascular disease, and whether physical activity has a larger impact on heart disease risk in people who have been diagnosed with depression.

The results showed that participants who got the recommended amount of exercise every week (150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week) had a 23% lower risk of developing heart disease compared to participants who did not meet the recommendations. Participants with higher levels of physical activity also showed less stress-related neural activity. Interestingly, the results further showed that the heart benefits of exercise were significantly greater among participants who had been diagnosed with depression compared to the general population. These results suggest that the stress-related benefits of exercise may be particularly helpful, both physically and mentally, for people with mental health disorders.

The authors of the study noted that exercise was about twice as effective in lowering heart disease risk in those with depression compared to the general population. While the mechanism remains unclear, these results suggest that exercise is extremely important for both physical and mental health in those with stress-related disorders such as depression.

Sources: JACC, Science Daily

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Savannah (she/her) is a scientific writer specializing in cardiology at Labroots. Her background is in medical writing with significant experience in obesity, oncology, and infectious diseases. She has conducted research in microbial biophysics, optics, and education. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.
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