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Take a Stroll and Enhance Your Heart Health

Beth Bradford

Mar 31, 2023

Just 11 minutes a day can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Moderate-intensity physical activity each day – like a brisk walk – would be enough to reduce one's risk of heart disease, stroke, and various types of cancer, according to a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Cardiovascular diseases are the top global cause of death, with 17.9 million deaths in 2019, while cancers caused 9.6 million deaths in 2017. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.

To better understand the amount of physical activity needed to lower the chances of serious illness or premature death, researchers from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at Cambridge University conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis. They pooled and analyzed data from 196 published papers covering over 30 million participants in 94 major studies – making it the most comprehensive analysis yet on physical activity levels and risk factors for heart disease and cancer.

Their findings showed that two out of three people don't do more than 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week; fewer than one in ten manage more than 300 minutes per week. Although further benefits stem from going beyond 150 minutes a week, even doing half that amount has its advantages: accumulating 75 minutes a week of moderate activity significantly lowers your risk of premature death by 23%.

Seventy-five minutes per week was also enough to reduce one's risk for cardiovascular illness by 17% and cancer by 7%. Certain types even saw greater reductions – head/neck cancers plus myeloid leukemia, myeloma, and gastric cardia cancers had 14-26% less risk; lung/liver/endometrial/colon/breast cancers had 3-11% less risk.

The researchers determined that if everyone maintained at least 150 mins per week at moderate intensity levels, 16% premature deaths could be prevented; 11% CVD cases and 5% cancer cases would not occur either. Even if 75 mins per week was done instead, 10% early deaths could be avoided; 5% CVD cases and 3% cancer cases wouldn't occur.

“Moderate activity doesn’t have to involve what we normally think of exercise, such as sports or running. Sometimes, replacing some habits is all that is needed," Queen's University Belfast's Dr. Leandro Garcia said in a news release. "For example, try to walk or cycle to your work or study place instead of using a car, or engage in active play with your kids or grand kids. Doing activities that you enjoy and that are easy to include in your weekly routine is an excellent way to become more active.”

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