Fact: Exercising regularly is great for your heart—period. According to the experts at John Hopkins Medical Center, moving more lowers your blood pressure—one of the major risk factors of heart disease—and it helps you slim down (“which in turn helps optimize heart health”), slows your risk of diabetes, helps you build your muscles and your aerobic capacity, and lowers your stress. But according to a major new study published in the journal PLOS Medicine, researchers are shedding light on exactly how much exercise—including walking—you need to do every day to bolster your heart health.
The study, conducted by researchers at the UK’s University of Oxford, focused on the exercise records of 90,211 adults that were culled from the UK Biobank, an enormous health and lifestyle database containing records for more than 500,000 volunteers between the ages of 40 and 69. The researchers grouped the people by how much exercise they were getting every week and whether or not that exercise was considered moderate or more intense. The researchers were then able to pinpoint which of the volunteers later developed heart disease.
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All told, the analysis revealed that people who didn’t really exercise at all essentially doubled their risk of heart disease, while those who walked upwards of two hours every day (which includes both exercise and daily habits that require walking, such as heading to the grocery store) and exercised more vigorously for just 50 minutes per week experienced no risk for heart disease and enjoyed the benefits of protecting their hearts even further.
Though the study “does not prove that walks and other activities, directly strengthen people’s hearts,” observes The New York Times, “[it proves] that the two are linked.”
The study also emphasizes that there’s no limit to the heart-health benefits of exercising more every day. “In this large population-based cohort, higher levels of moderate-intensity and vigorous intensity physical activities, as well as total volume, were inversely associated with risk of incident cardiovascular disease with no evidence for a threshold effect,” the study concludes. “The finding of no threshold effect aligns with the recommendations of the UK Chief Medical Officer’s report on physical activity that ‘some physical activity is good, but more is better.'”
If walking is your exercise of preference, know that This Simple Walking Workout Is an Amazing Fat Burner, Says Top Trainer.