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The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2007 March;47(1):84-90


lingua: Inglese

Relationship between physical activity and cardiovascular disease. Selected historical highlights

Conti A. A. 1, 2, Macchi C. 1, 2, Molino Lova R. 2, Conti A. 3, Gensini G. F. 1, 2

1 Department of Critical and Surgical Health Care University of Florence, Florence, Italy 2 Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation IRCCS Florence, Florence, Italy 3 Department of Clinical Phathophysiology University of Florence, Florence, Italy


The full awareness that physical exercise represents a form of prevention and therapy for cardiovascular diseases is rather recent, considering that the discovery of blood circulation dates back to the 17th century and that the definition of major cardiovascular risk factors is an acquisition of the 20th century. In this paper a historical review has been undertaken so as to evidence major selected highlights of cardiovascular knowledge applied to physical activity from antiquity to the present day.
Despite of the fact that the role of physical activity for the sake of a good body equilibrium is an ancient concept, as documented by the recurrent term “exercise” in the works of Hippocrates, only about 70 years have passed from the time when, in the ’30s, myocardial infarction patients were strictly advised to observe a period of bed rest of at least 6 weeks; less than a century has passed since the so-called “chair therapy” constituted the cornerstone of the therapy of the cardiovascular patient. In the ’40s and the ’50s a certain amount of attentive mobilization proved to be beneficial, given that it was associated with a remarkable reduction of thromboembolic risk. In the ’70s an increasing amount of clinical literature documented that even healthy subjects, remaining in bed for a long period, showed relatively rapidly signs of de-conditioning. In 1973 Kavanagh et al. demonstrated that the patients included in cardiac rehabilitation showed an improvement in their physical work capacity, an increase in their global cardiovascular function and went back more quickly and safely to their work environment, as compared with cardiac patients not performing rehabilitative physical exercise. The studies performed in the ’70s provided the bases of modern cardiovascular rehabilitation, a multidimensional and integrated approach, one of whose pillars is structured physical activity

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