The researchers said as fitness increases, heart disease risk decreases.
The study got its data from the Biobank database of about 500,000 people in the UK.
The findings showed that greater grip strength, more physical activity and better cardiorespiratory fitness are all associated with reduced risk of heart attacks and stroke, even among people with a genetic predisposition for heart disease.
According to the study, participants with an intermediate genetic risk for cardiovascular diseases were 36 percent less likely to develop coronary heart disease and had a 46 percent reduction in their risk of atrial fibrillation compared to study participants with the same genetic risk who had the weakest grips.
Among individuals deemed at high genetic risk for cardiovascular diseases, high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with a 49 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease, and a 60 percent lower risk of atrial fibrillation compared to study participants with low cardiorespiratory fitness.
“The main message of this study is that being physically active is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, even if you have a high genetic risk,” said Erik Ingelsson, lead author of the study.
The researchers, however, said the study is not a prescription for a specific type or amount of exercise, especially because the results come from an observational study.
Ingelsson explained that observational studies are designed to establish trends.
“We can’t definitely claim a causal connection,” he said.
“It would be best to discuss a physical activity plan with a physician.”
The study was published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation.