The importance of physical exercise tends to be neglected in today’s modern
lifestyle. This increased passive way of life conveys a notable increase in the
prevalence of lifestyle disorders such as hypertension and vascular pathology which
lead to cardiovascular strain. Taking this into account, the aim of this investigation
was to explore the empirical association between the heart health status of an active
and sedentary South African lifestyle, thus intending to provide insight into impact of
the significant changes that are associated with the modernised society.
With the aforementioned objective in mind, four separate studies were completed:
Study 1 sought to investigate the cardiovascular status of 162 undergraduate
university students in order to determine whether, despite their youth, students
remained at risk of cardiovascular complications. Astonishingly, results indicate that
a number of students between the ages of 18 and 25 in a university setting present
with preeminent cardiovascular risk. This data highlights some serious concerns
regarding the cardiovascular health among the youth.
In sequel to study 1, study 2 permitted the comparison of a sedentary and active
South African population, however some discrepancies originated due to the notable
age difference between the groups. Nevertheless, results gained from this crosssectional
comparison between the populations indicate significantly higher cardiac
risk amongst the sedentary population.
Study 3 was conducted on 202 infantry service recruits between the ages of 18 and
24 years. A pre- post intervention study design was incorporated in pursuit of
determining the influence of an intense training programme on cardiovascular variables of a population over a 20 week time-frame. Results yielded from this study
indicate a significant decrease in overall cardiovascular risk, as tested over three
intervals (week 1, week 12, and week 20) during the 20 week training period.
Study 4 was designed as a longitudinal study with self-controls for within group
comparisons, as well as a comparative study between the two contrasting
populations. Thus, affording the opportunity to determine the impact of physical
activity on cardiovascular risk by comparing two divergent South African lifestyles
over a 20-week time frame. The 202 infantry service recruits of study 3 served as the
intervention group, while the control group comprised of 126 sedentary university
students. Findings from this study conveyed strong association between the active
population and decreased cardio-stress index and related heart health
measurements in comparison to results of the sedentary population.
This research validates the positive correlation between a physically active lifestyle
and improved heart health, thereby implying reduced cardiovascular risk. In the
combat against cardiovascular disease it is clear that focus should be shifted from
pharmacological treatment to behavioural prevention.
As a principle component of this preventative approach it is vital that individuals are
equipped with screening technology that enables early detection and monitoring of
probable cardiovascular complications. Several novel ideas were introduced in this
research, including the endorsement of the cardio-stress index method as an
efficient non-invasive technique to directly observe cardiovascular stress.