Just 30 minutes of exercise each day can lower heart disease risk

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A large new worldwide study has shown that just by including more physical activities such as taking the stairs or walking about during office hours in between periods of sitting an protect one from heart disease as well as an early death when compared to getting a gym membership. The study was published in the latest issue of the Lancet.

The study found that one in 20 patients of heart disease and one in 12 cases of early deaths worldwide can be stopped only if people became a bit more physically active. The study compared 130,000 people in 17 countries. Countries with different socioeconomic structures were all included in the study. There were developed affluent nations such as Canada and Sweden and developing and underdeveloped nations too including Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

The guidelines state that 30 minutes of exercise per day for five days a week or 150 minutes of exercise per week is all the physical activity needed to reduce heart disease and deaths. Lead author Professor Scott Lear, of Simon Fraser University’s faculty of health sciences in Vancouver, Canada says one to two hours of physical activity per day is the optimum level that could be achieved. He said that for most people that much time is scarce or so they think! The study reveals that for people who have the highest levels of activity are those that incorporate these activities into their daily lives rather than set aside time for exercise. In developing nations for example, most people have physically more taxing work lives. As the nation becomes economically stronger, the physical activities in general tend to drop.

Lear explains that use of gadgets has lessened our physical activity comparing use of a broom to sweep the floor to a vacuum cleaner. However he said what can be done is “getting up every 20 to 30 minutes for a walk around” rather than the “occasional forays to the gym or swimming pool”. He advised that a “walk around meeting” is a great alternative to small member meetings. Playing with kids in the park rather than just standing or sitting around watching them can also be a simple way to increase activity he said. Taking the stairs, walking an extra block are other such tips to increase physical activity time in a day he adds.

The study showed that those who spent more time being physically active were more likely to have a lower risk of heart disease and early death. The study finds that even low physical activity each day can provide this benefit. Those who did over 750 minutes of brisk walking or similar activity per week had a reduced risk of death by 36%. The study adds that other measures to ensure heart and cardiovascular health is incorporation of healthy fruits and vegetables in diet and usage of generic heart disease prevention drugs. These are not affordable to many in the low income countries. For these populations, regular physical activity in daily lives is a safe and low cost approach to preventing heart disease and related deaths.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that adults up to 64 years of age should partake in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. They should also include muscle strengthening exercises at least two days a week. Findings have shown that over a quarter are not adhering to these recommerndations.

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Last Updated: Mar 13, 2023

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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