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Taking brisk daily walks for this long can reduce risk of heart disease

Scientists say doing more exercise doesn’t do much to reduce your risk of cardiovascular conditions unless it is of at least moderate intensity.

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Woman is walking the path with black sneakers on her feet. She is wearing black sweater and black shorts. Image taken during sunset.
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By Gwyn Wright via SWNS

A brisk daily seven-minute walk instead of a leisurely 14-minute stroll is enough to cut the risk of heart disease, according to a new study.

Scientists say doing more exercise doesn’t do much to reduce your risk of cardiovascular conditions unless it is of at least moderate intensity.

Researchers add that easy activities such as washing the car or doing laundry, which has counted as an exercise in earlier research, are not enough to stave off heart problems.

However, doing just two brisk walks for an hour and fifteen minutes a week or one run for the same amount of time a week is enough to keep the condition at bay.

When people did more exercise overall but the amount of moderate to vigorous exercise they did remain the same, there was little improvement in heart health.

When activity levels doubled there was no significant boost to heart health when the amount of moderate to vigorous activity someone did remain at 10 percent.

When that proportion rose by 20 percent, disease risk fell by 23 percent.

When it rose by 40 percent, disease risk fell by 40 percent.

Rates of heart disease were 14 percent lower when moderate-to-vigorous physical activity accounted for 20 percent rather than 10 percent of overall physical activity, even in people who did not exercise much.

This difference is equivalent to turning a daily 14-minute stroll into a brisk seven-minute walk.

The participants who did the most exercise overall, and did more tough exercise as a proportion of that, had the lowest risk of developing heart disease.

It has long been known that exercise is good for heart health but it had been less clear whether just doing more of it is enough or whether it has to be vigorous to be effective.

To find out, researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Leicester analyzed wrist accelerometer data from 88,000 people whose health information is stored in the UK Biobank.

The UK Biobank is a large database containing information about the health of half a million Brits.

Most large existing studies have relied on questionnaire responses to work out how much exercise participants got up to.

Running sport. Man runner legs and shoes in action on road outdoors at sunset. Male athlete model.
(Cast Of Thousands via Shutterstock)

However, physical activity levels can be difficult to recall- especially when they relate to low-intensity activities such as washing the car or doing laundry.

Without accurate records, it has not been possible to separate the effects of doing more exercise overall and doing more vigorous physical activity.

The team investigated the association between physical activity volume and intensity and cardiovascular disease incidence in British 88,412 middle-aged adults who were free from heart disease.

Participants wore an activity tracker on their dominant wrist for a week while they took part in the study.

Data was collected on the total amount of physical activity they did, and the authors worked out the percentage of that volume that was achieved through moderate and vigorous-intensity activity.

The number of cardiovascular events, including coronary artery disease and stroke, was then recorded among participants, who were followed up for 6.8 years on average.

Study senior author Professor Tom Yates, of Leicester University, said: “Our analysis confirms that increasing the total amount of physical activity can lower the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, but we also found that achieving the same overall amount of physical activity through higher intensity activity has a substantial additional benefit.

“Our findings support simple behavior-change messages that 'every move counts' to encourage people to increase their overall physical activity, and if possible to do so by incorporating more moderately intense activities."

He added: “This could be as simple as converting a leisurely stroll into a brisk walk, but a variety of approaches should encourage and help individuals to find whatever is most practical or enjoyable for them.”

The findings were published in the European Heart Journal.

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