Vigorous exercise significantly improves several risk factors for heart disease, including boosting vitamin D levels, a new study shows.
That’s one of the surprising findings by Harvard scientists, who were trying to identify the reasons exercise lowers the risk of heart attacks.
People who do vigorous physical activity — such as running, jogging, playing basketball or soccer — for three or more hours a week reduce their risk of a heart attack by 22%, the study found. Among the reasons: They have higher levels of good cholesterol and vitamin D as well as better levels of other factors involved in heart disease.
Experts have known for years that regular exercise, including both moderate and vigorous physical activity, improves heart health, but this study helps tease out why.
“The fact that vitamin D plays a role in the relationship between exercise and risk of heart disease is a new finding,” says the study’s lead author Andrea Chomistek, a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health. “This likely comes from being outside more. People who exercise tend to be out in the sun, which raises their vitamin D level. I don’t think you’d get the same increase in vitamin D by staying inside and running on the treadmill.”
Source: Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY