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Research Supports Sustained Exercise as Key to Heart Health

The post-holiday paths to local gymnasiums are paved with the best of intentions.

After indulging in an assortment of goodies from Thanksgiving through the end of December, millions of Americans set New Year’s resolutions built on promises of slimming down and shaping up.

For many, the prospect of sweating at the gym five days a week or eliminating pizza as a food group loses its appeal after a week or two. When it comes to heart health, however, a radical lifestyle change isn’t required to affect positive change.

John Quindry, director of Auburn University’s Cardioprotection Research Laboratory, said far too many people associate hour-long elliptical machine sessions as the most effective means of building a healthy heart.

“There’s something about a new year where people muster up the courage to actually make some great claims and expectations for the year ahead, claims that most of the time go completely unfulfilled,’’ said Quindry, an assistant professor of exercise science in the College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology. “Just getting out and walking or jogging for the recommended 30 to 45 minutes most days is going to be enough to help.’’

Quindry said the point can’t be emphasized enough with February marking Heart Health Month. The American College of Sports Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both suggest 30 minutes of brisk walking as a benchmark for daily physical activity.

“They have what are called reduced exercise guidelines, which indicate even a little bit of physical activity can go a long way for health,’’ Quindry said. “It is overlooked by society. Despite established fitness and exercise standards, common expectations for a fitness program are all too often gauged by people like Lance Armstrong, people who have reached the pinnacle of athletic success.’’

Since the average person isn’t going to climb on a bicycle and compete in the Tour de France, however, Quindry said it’s important to tailor exercise regimens toward improving overall cardiovascular health. Through his animal-based laboratory research, Quindry and his collaborators have found that even a few days of exercise can provide a form of protection in the event of a heart attack.

In his lab experiments, Quindry has taken sedentary rats and exercised them through treadmill activity for three-day periods. After that period of moderate to vigorous exercise, the lab rats were subjected to experimentally-induced heart attacks, replicating a clinical heart attack in humans. Quindry has repeatedly found that the brief exercise regimen diminishes the severity of the heart attacks.

“The animal-based research has been structured so that it’s very clinically relevant,’’ Quindry said. “The animals we use exercise in proportion to the same intensities you and I would exercise for good health and fitness.

“Just three days of exercise overwhelmingly protects against heart attack damage,’’ Quindry said. “What we’re finding is that even a little bit of physical activity is more powerful than we once thought.’’

John Quindry (334-844-1844;, assistant professor of kinesiology. Cardioprotection, reducing heart attack risk through physical activity.

John Quindry | Newswise Science News
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