Exercise and Heart Health: Every Little Bit Counts
Take the first half of your lunch break to go for a brisk walk
Not all of us are cut out to be marathon runners or super athletes, but everyone can get some amount of physical activity, and every little bit you get adds to the health of your heart. That's according to a new meta-analysis of the research on exercise and cardiac risk, which found that people who are physically active but don't meet the current minimum recommendation of 2.5 hours per week still have a lower risk of heart disease than people who don't exercise at all--and the more you exercise, the more you benefit.
Putting numbers on the benefits
The meta-analysis, published in Circulation, included data from 33 studies that examined the relationship between leisure time physical activity and cardiac risk. The combined data showed the following:
Some is better than none, and more is better yet
Referring to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, the authors of the analysis said, "These findings provide quantitative data supporting US physical activity guidelines that stipulate that 'some physical activity is better than none' and 'additional benefits occur with more physical activity.'"
Since 1995, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans has included advice on physical activity. In 2008, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans was developed as a separate set of recommendations in light of the wealth of evidence that physical activity is essential to a long and healthy life. The focus of the guidelines is on health-enhancing activities--those that are above and beyond the light-intensity physical activity that is part of daily life. Examples include brisk walking, jumping rope, dancing, lifting weights, cycling, and practicing yoga.
Ten minutes at a time
In the interest of your heart, if you don't exercise at all, start small and increase slowly, and if you exercise some, think about ways to do a little more. Here are some tips to help you get in a few extra minutes:
(Circulation 2001; 124:789-95)
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice on Cortes Island in British Columbia, Canada, and has done extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.