SFU health sciences professor Scott Lear is the lead investigator of the international PURE study, which found that any kind of activity can benefit the heart.

Study finds any activity—from workouts to housework—is good for the heart

September 22, 2017

By Marianne Meadahl

An international team of scientists, led by SFU health sciences professor Scott Lear, has found that physical activity of any kind—from gym workouts to housecleaning —can help prevent heart disease and even death.

Lear, who holds the Pfizer/Heart & Stroke Foundation Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research at St. Paul’s Hospital, is the principal investigator of the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, which involved more than 130,000 people from 17 countries. The study, published in The Lancet, was carried out by the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences.

Lear’s team demonstrated that any activity is good for people in raising their heart rates to meet the activity guideline of 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week. Researchers found that by meeting these guidelines the risk of death from any cause was reduced by 28 per cent, while heart disease was reduced by 20 per cent, regardless of the type of physical activity.

Lear notes that one in four people worldwide do not meet the current guideline and that number is nearly triple in Canada. According to the researchers, one in 12 deaths could be prevented if everyone was active for at least 150 minutes per week over five years.

The PURE study showed that similar to high income countries, low and middle-income countries also demonstrated the benefits of leisure time activities. “By including low and middle-income countries, we were able to determine the benefits of activities such as active commuting, having an active job or even doing housework,” says Lear.

In order to realize the full benefits of physical activity, Lear says it needs to be incorporated into daily life. “Going to the gym is great, but we only have so much time we can spend there. If we can walk to work, or at lunch time, that will help too.”

The study’s more than 50 funding sources included McMaster University’s Population Health Research Institute, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Ontario SPOR Support Unit.