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At least 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 days per weekBut no kidding, how much exercise is enough to get the heart health benefits? Can we overdo it and begin to see declines in marginal utility?
Researchers at Harvard Medical School published an article in February of 2016 that addressed this issue. They concluded that regular exercise helps us avoid heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, plus other chronic diseases. They also noted that most Americans are not physically active on a daily basis; one of the primary reasons for this inactivity is the assumption by many that exercise needs to be extremely vigorous and highly sweaty.
It turns out that your exercise doesn’t need to be so exhausting – your heart will benefit greatly from regular moderate exercise (walking, gardening) if you do it often enough. Vigorous aerobic exercise (running, swimming) offers the same cardiac goodness as moderate workouts, but here’s the difference: it takes about twice as much moderate exercise time to achieve the same results as vigorous sessions. Even so, it’s not a burdensome investment of time. Peruse this chart from the American Heart Association.
For Overall Cardiovascular Health:
TOTAL – 150 minutes
At least 25 minutes of vigorous exercise at least 3 days per week
TOTAL – 75 minutes
The research team at Harvard theorized that the aerobic exercise craze of the 1970’s and 80’s may have been a culprit in our misunderstanding about exercise. It was clear that repetitive high intensity exercise increased oxygen intake, with translated into better athletic performance and better cardiovascular health. Heavy duty aerobic exercise took off, but only among a relatively small portion of the population. Many people found it too challenging and decided to avoid exercise altogether.
But the news got better. As the years moved forward, we discovered that we didn’t actually need Olympic-style training regimens to get heart benefits from exercise. In fact, people who exercise moderately even 15 minutes a day tend to live about 3 years longer than people who are inactive. Going back to our earlier mathematical expression, some is better than none.
One last question: If some is good, is more even better? Well, if it makes you happy to get lots of moderate or even vigorous exercise, then have at it. Studies show that there are no real downsides to extra exercise; however, the benefits to your heart health typically plateau at about 45-60 minutes of daily exercise. No real need to go past an hour, but nothing harmed if you do.
No more excuses! Get moving for a healthy heart!
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