Heart health and physical activity

New research, appearing in the European Heart Journal, suggests that lack of physical activity can drastically increase the risk of a heart attack in the long-term, even if there are no symptoms at present.
running and heart fitness
Exercise that raises the heart rate, such as running, may cut heart attack risk by half, suggests a new study.

Cardiorespiratory fitness describes the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles when we are engaged in physical activity. Specifically, the term refers to “the efficiency of the heart, lungs and vascular system.”

A significant body of research has linked cardiorespiratory fitness with a variety of positive health outcomes, ranging from preventing cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality to staving off diabetes and improving insulin resistance.

However, most of these previous studies have relied on the participants’ self-reported levels of fitness.

New research uses more precise methods of measuring cardiorespiratory fitness and highlights another one of its benefits.

Higher fitness levels can halve the risk of heart attack, the new study finds. Conversely, suggest the researchers, poor fitness levels can raise future risk even in the absence of warning symptoms in the present.

Bjarne Nes, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Cardiac Exercise Research Group in Trondheim, is the corresponding and last author of the study.

Studying fitness levels and heart attack risk

Nes and his colleagues analyzed the cardiorespiratory fitness of more than 4,500 people who took part in an extensive health survey called HUNT3.

None of the participants had a history of cardiovascular disease, lung disease, cancer, or high blood pressure at the start of the study.

Just over 50 percent of the participants were women, and more than 80 percent of all of them were at “low risk” of developing cardiovascular disease over a 10-year period.

The scientists used a “gold-standard method” — or maximum oxygen uptake — to directly measure the participants’ fitness levels.

Maximum oxygen uptake refers to the maximum amount of oxygen the body can absorb during exercise. According to Nes, it is “the most precise measure of fitness.”

High fitness halves the risk of heart attack

By the end of the study, 147 of the participants had heart attacks or had developed angina pectoris — two conditions caused by blocked or narrowed coronary arteries.

The analysis by the researchers revealed a correlation between declining cardiovascular risk and increased fitness levels.

“Even among people who seem to be healthy, the top 25 percent of the most fit individuals actually have only half as high a risk as the least fit 25 percent,” reports Nes.

Furthermore, even a small improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness saw significant benefits for heart health. Namely, each fitness increase of 3.5 points correlated with a 15 percent lower risk of heart attack or angina.

“We found a strong link between higher fitness levels and a lower risk of heart attack and angina pectoris over the 9 years following the measurements that were taken,” says Nes.

“We know that patients with low oxygen uptake are at increased risk of premature death and cardiovascular disease,” he continues.

Our study shows that poorer fitness is an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease, even among healthy women and men who are relatively fit.”

Bjarne Nes

‘Use training as preventive medicine’

Dr. Jon Magne Letnes, the study’s first author, also further comments on the findings. “Our results should encourage people to use training as preventive medicine,” Dr. Letnes says.

“A few months of regular exercise that gets you out of breath can be an effective strategy for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Dr. Letnes explains that cardiorespiratory fitness offers insights into so much more than just endurance to exercise.

“Fitness isn’t just a measure of how much you’ve trained in your life, but it also tells you what kind of genes you have,” he says.

“Other factors like obesity may also affect fitness. So we measure a lot of the body’s functions, and from other studies, we know that both genes and physical activity play a role in how your heart and blood vessels function,” Dr. Letnes explains.

The study’s first author thinks doctors should consider fitness measurements when evaluating heart disease risk.

“Although it may be inconvenient and difficult to measure oxygen uptake at the doctor’s office, some simple and relatively accurate calculators exist that can provide a good estimate of fitness and disease risk,” he advises.

Butt exercises to reduce fat

This post reviews the best ways to lose butt fat. Losing fat from the butt is a common fitness goal. There are many ways a person can achieve this.

There are three major muscles in the butt. These are the gluteus maximus, the gluteus minimus, and the gluteus medius.

Glulteus muscles which make up the buttWhile it is not possible to spot-reduce fat loss in one particular area, cutting down on overall body fat while toning the butt muscles can lead to leaner, better-defined buttocks.

This article details exercises that help people lose fat throughout the body while adding shape to the butt and thigh muscles. We also list other methods that can help people achieve their desired body shape.

Exercises to reduce butt fat

Try the following exercises to lose fat from the butt and to tone the muscles in the thighs and glutes:

1. Running

running works the buttRunning is an excellent exercise for full-body weight loss. Running tones the leg and butt muscles, which gives the thighs and buttocks a more defined shape.

This aerobic activity also improves heart and lung function, and it strengthens the lower body. Also, aside from supportive shoes, it requires no special equipment.

Running is better than walking for fat loss, as it burns more calories. A 2012 study found that over 1,600 meters, people of average fitness burned 372.54 calories while walking and 471.03 calories while running.

However, the study authors conclude that even if a person is unable to take up running, walking is also a very good option for burning calories and fat compared with resting.

2. High-intensity interval training

treadmill for butt

Busy people who want to lose butt fat can take up high-intensity interval training (HIIT). According to a worldwide survey of fitness trends for 2018, HIIT is the most popular fitness trend globally.

HIIT involves putting maximum effort into one specific activity for a short period. This is followed by a longer period at a slower pace. HIIT sessions are intense workouts, so they tend to be shorter in duration than moderate-intensity activities.

For example, after a warmup period, HIIT may involve the following:

  • running on a treadmill at 7 miles per hour (mph) for 1 minute
  • running for 2 minutes at 5 mph
  • repeating this pattern for 15 minutes or so before cooling down

Research from 2011 suggests that HIIT may be more effective at reducing body fat than other types of exercise.

Another study reports that HIIT is a good strategy for controlling obesity because of its time-efficiency.

3. Step-climbing

stair climbing great for butt
Climbing steps is an easy way to tone the glutes while also keeping the heart and lungs healthy.

Step-climbing boosts strength and muscle tone in the butt and upper legs. There are various ways to work these muscles:

  • using stepping machines at a gym
  • walking up flights of stairs
  • hiking uphill
  • using a climbing or bouldering wall

Step-climbing can provide other health benefits, too. One small study from 2005 on 15 women found that climbing flights of stairs up to five times per day had a measurable impact on oxygen uptake and reduced low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol.

In this study, the women began by climbing a flight of 199 stairs once each day in week 1, then gradually increasing climbs to five times each day by week 7. They made no other dietary or lifestyle changes while taking part in this study.

4. Squats

squats are perfect workout for buttSquats are a major part of many exercise plans. This is likely due to their ability to work several muscles in the butt, legs, and abdomen at the same time.

One 2009 study, which appeared in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, examined the effects of various exercises on the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius.

The scientists found that single-leg squats were a good option for activating both the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius.

To perform a single-leg squat:

  • Extend the arms in front of the body.
  • Stand on the left leg and extend the right leg straight in front, as high as possible.
  • Slowly lower the butt as close as possible to the floor while keeping the leg elevated. The back should be straight and the left knee in line with the left foot.
  • Return to the starting position. Repeat several times before switching to the right leg.

If it is not possible to perform one-leg squats, regular squats are also effective. To do these:

  • Extend the arms in front of the body. Keep the feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Slowly lower the butt as close as possible to the floor, without losing balance. The back should be straight, and the knees should not travel out in front of the toes.
  • Return to the starting position. Repeat several times.
  • To increase the intensity, hold weights in the hands while squatting.

Another variation is the split-squat, during which a person performs squats with their legs apart. A small-scale 2017 study found that split-squats had the highest impact on the gluteus maximus, compared with deadlifts and good-mornings.

5. Lunges

lunges for butt

Lunges are another lower-body strength exercise that activates and tones the gluteus maximus. Variations include sideways, forward, and transverse lunges.

The basic forward lunge also works the thighs and calves. To perform a lunge:

  • Stand with the feet hip-distance apart.
  • Take a large step forward with the left leg.
  • Slowly lower the body, bending both knees to 90 degrees. Do not allow the right knee to touch the ground or the left knee to travel past the toes of the left foot.
  • Return to the standing position. Repeat several times.

6. One-leg deadlift

One-leg deadlift with weight great for butt

Deadlifts work the lower body, improve balance, and strengthen the abdominal muscles and lower back. Doing one-leg deadlifts also activates the gluteus muscles.

Follow these instructions to do a one-leg deadlift:

  • Stand on one leg with the hands by the sides.
  • Stretch the other leg out behind. Keep the back flat and the shoulders back.
  • Lean forward from the hips until there is a stretch in the hamstrings. Do not let the chest drop below the hips.
  • Return to the starting position. Repeat several times, then switch sides.

If this is too intense, lightly rest the non-supporting leg on the floor. To increase the exercise intensity, use hand-held weights.

7. Side-lying hip abduction

Side-lying hip abductions work the butt

Side-lying hip abduction exercises are effective for strengthening the gluteus medius muscle. To do this exercise:

  • Begin by lying on one side and supporting the head with the arm or hand. Keep the knees straight and feet together.
  • Slowly raise the top leg as high as possible without turning the pelvis backward or forward.
  • Lower the leg slowly to return to the starting position. Repeat several times on each side.

Use ankle weights to increase the intensity of this exercise.

8. Lateral band walk

Strengthen and stabilize the hips and knees with a lateral band walk, which also works the gluteus medius muscle. This exercise is a useful warmup activity before running, jumping, and other activities.

To do the lateral band walk:

  • Take a resistance band and place it under the balls of the feet. Ensure that the band stays flat against the shoes.
  • Stretch the legs to shoulder-width apart. Distribute the weight evenly over both feet.
  • Bending the knees slightly to achieve a semi-squat position, squeeze the glutes and core muscles.
  • With one foot, take a small step of around 3 inches to the side. Move t