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Liver disease sufferers could benefit from walking or strength training

Researchers suggest it could stave off death from the disease

Photo (c) oneinchpunch - Fotolia
Staying active is crucial to overall physical health, and now researchers have found that it could also be imperative from those suffering with liver disease.

According to a recent study, walking regularly or engaging in muscle strengthening exercises could help those with liver disease reduce their risk of death.

“The benefit of exercise is not a new concept, but the impact of exercise on mortality from cirrhosis and from liver cancer has not yet been explored on this scale,” said Dr. Tracey Simon. “Our findings show that both walking and strength training contribute to substantial reductions in risk of cirrhosis-related death, which is significant because we know very little about modifiable risks.”

Multiple health benefits

To see how mild exercise could affect liver disease sufferers, the researchers tracked 117,000 participants’ health records and physical activity over the course of 26 years.

Using the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the researchers were able to get over 68,000 women and over 48,000 men to participate, all of whom did not have liver disease at the onset.

The study began in 1986, at which point all of the participants documented how frequently and how intensely they exercised. They repeated this process every two years through the end of the study in 2012.

Following up every two years allowed the researchers to see if an exercise regimen was affecting participants’ risk of cirrhosis-related death. By the study’s end in 2012, the participants who were walking the most on a regular basis were nearly 75 percent less likely to die from liver disease, and those that also engaged in strength training were at an even lower risk.

The researchers were encouraged by these findings, as they note that as obesity rates continue to rise, cases of liver disease are also on the rise, and having evidence that exercise -- even light exercise -- can improve health outcomes can be beneficial to consumers.

“In the U.S., mortality due to cirrhosis is increasing dramatically, with rates expected to triple by the year 2030,” said Dr. Simon. “In the face of this alarming trend, information on modifiable risk factors that might prevent liver disease is needed. Our findings support further research to define the optimal type and intensity of physical activity to prevent adverse outcomes in patients at risk of cirrhosis.”

Power in walking

Dr. Simon noted in the study that exercise provides countless health benefits to consumers, and recent studies have found that not only can exercise lead to longer life, but it can affect more than just our physical health.

More specifically, walking, which can be an easy activity for consumers to incorporate into their daily routines, has been found to boost health in countless ways. Researchers have found that cancer patients who walk for just 30 minutes each day can improve their quality of life, while another study revealed that walking improves our overall health by increasing the blood supply to the brain.

"New data now strongly suggest that brain blood flow is very dynamic and depends directly on cyclic aortic pressures that interact with retrograde pressure pulses from foot impacts,” the researchers said. “There is a continuum of hemodynamic effects on human brain blood flow within pedaling, walking and running. Speculatively, these activities may optimize brain perfusion, function, and an overall sense of well-being during exercise.”

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