Middle-aged men and women who take part in physical activity during their leisure time may be improving their cardiovascular health, new research has indicated.
A study, published in Circulation – the journal of the American Heart Association – found taking part in exercise for more than a decade appears to improve cardiac health.
The research involved the analysis of more than 4,200 people with an average age of 49.
Participants reported the frequency and duration of workouts and physical tasks they did during leisure time, including gardening, maintenance work, cycling, sports, brisk walking or housework.
International healthcare specialists then examined interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP) – two key inflammatory markers.
A baseline analysis of these substances took place between 1991 and 1993, before being followed up between 1997 and 1999 and then again around 11 years later.
People who were found to be physically active had lower levels of CRP and IL-6 than inactive research subjects, with this discrepancy seen to continue throughout the follow-up tests.
"It is especially important for older people to be physically active because it contributes to successful ageing," University College in London associate professor of epidemiology and public health and lead author of the study Dr Mark Hamer said.
He added: "It's not just vigorous exercise and sports that are important," stating: "These leisure-time activities represent moderate intensity exercise that is important to health."
A total of 49.1 per cent of all the participants in the investigation took part in moderate to vigorous exercise for at least 2.5 hours every week, which is considered to be the standard recommendation for the maintenance of cardiovascular health.
This jumped to 83 per cent in the later phases of the research, which Dr Hamer attributed to people retiring and taking part in more physical activity.
Exercise and physical activity is an important way to prevent cardiovascular illnesses, with some of its other beneficial effects thought to include a reduced risk of obesity, greater tolerance to glucose and lower blood pressure.