The Heartfelt Truth about Exercise - how much is enough?


In this world of "all-or-nothing" thinking, high intensity exercise, and no-pain-no-gain workouts, it is easy to stay on the sofa.  No more.  Grab your walking shoes - or even just a comfortable pair of slip-ons.

February is National Heart Month, so let's talk about how much exercise is needed for heart health.

Three times/week of 15-30 minutes of brisk walking can help lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  What's brisk?  If you can carry on a conversation with a little bit of effort, you are at a brisk pace.  (If you can talk as though you were still sitting on the sofa, umm, it is not a brisk pace.)

Also, in a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 39372 females over the age of 45 were followed for 4-7 years.  Vigorous activities and walking were studied, in relation to heart disease.

The results?  Vigorous activity (for example, running) "were associated with lower risk."  But, walking also "predicted lower risk."  Interestingly, when walking time and walking pace were analyzed, it was "time spent walking, but not walking pace" that "predicted lower risk." 

Even just one hour of walking per week lowered risk of heart disease, regardless of weight or cholesterol levels.

What's your take-away?  If you like to run or do structured exercise programs, and your joints allow it, go for it.  If you don't enjoy that, get off your sofa, put on some comfy shoes, and go for a walk. 

The key is consistency.  The decreased risk was not in the women who ran or walked during January of each year and then stopped.  Pick activities you enjoy (walking, running, hiking, swimming, cycling, tennis, circuit classes, ...) and commit to move throughout the week.


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