Small amounts of exercise, or roughly 20 minute workouts, performed daily can reduce the risk of heart disease by nearly 15 percent, according to a new study by the American Heart Association (AHA), with results stronger in women.
Findings show that those who engage in 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or about 20 minutes per day, lowered their risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) by 14 percent compared to those who do not exercise regularly. Increased levels of physical activity led to even lower risk, with a higher percentage for those who exceed two and a half hours per week.
Published in Circulation, a journal tied with the AHA, this is the first study to quantify preconceived notions that physical activity can reduce the risk of heart disease and other heart traumas like heart attacks, angina and bypass surgeries.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (2008) provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes as the least amount of exercise required per week, which was the scale used in the study. The CDC also recommends that even 10 minutes per day is "fine."
"The overall findings of the study corroborate federal guidelines - even a little bit of exercise is good, but more is better," said Jacob Sattelmair, the author of the study. "150 minutes of exercise per week is beneficial, 300 minutes per week will give even more benefits."
The study provided quantitative details for "doses of exercise" in relation to risk percentage for heart disease. Conclusions showed:
-150 minutes per week of moderate exercise led to a 14% lower coronary heart disease risk
-300 minutes per week of moderate exercise led to a 20% lower coronary heart disease risk
-750 minutes per week of moderate exercise led to a 25% lower coronary heart disease risk
"The biggest health benefits we saw were for those who went from doing nothing to those doing something small," Sattelmair said to USA Today. "Even a little bit of activity makes a significant difference."
The study also showed that there was a significant outcome for women, who showed stronger results than men. Researchers involved in the study were not sure of the reasons, but noted that women receive more benefits from regular exercise.
After reviewing nearly 3,200 studies associated to exercise and its correlation to heart disease risk, researchers lead by Sattelmair at the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed data in order to determine an exact number to depict the relationship between physical activity and risk of heart disease.
"More recent studies have begun to assess the actual amount of physical activity people are getting and how that relates to the risk of heart disease," said Sattelmair.
As the lead cause of death in America according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease affects nearly 17 million people in the U.S. Chances of developing CHD are significantly lowered by healthy living, which includes daily exercise and a healthy diet.
The study focused on moderate levels of physical activity which can include brisk walking, water aerobics, bicycling, dancing, gardening and tennis. According to the CDC, as long as you can talk, not sing, during activity, it is considered moderate and not vigorous.
Studies show that regular physical activity can improve overall health and fitness while reducing risk for other diseases aside from coronary heart disease, like diabetes, obesity and even cancer.