You probably know that you need to exercise to have a healthy heart. But you might be surprised at how little activity it takes.
A new study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that moving just 10 minutes a week helped. Researchers looked at surveys the government collected from more than 88,000 Americans, ages 40 to 85, from 1997 to 2008. They used the information to see how the activity levels of those people matched with death records.
The researchers looked at the total amount of a person’s active free time, whether it was just gardening or running in a race. The result: People who were physically active 10 minutes to about an hour a week had a 12% lower risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke than people who didn’t exercise at all. Those who worked out from 120 minutes to 299 minutes a week (about 2 hours to 5 hours) reduced their risk by even more — 37%.
The researchers also saw benefits when they looked at exercise time and figured out the risk of dying from any cause. People who exercised 10 minutes to about an hour per week had an 18% lower risk of death overall. Those who got sweaty from 150 minutes to 299 minutes a week (about 2½ hours to 5 hours) reduced their risk by 31 percent.
The US guidelines for physical activity suggest that people put in at least 150 minutes a week (think of it as 30 minutes, 5 days of the week) of moderate activity, such as walking, to be in good health. Even if you start with 10 minutes a day a few days a week, you can work up to that goal while getting benefits all along the way. Having a walking buddy is a great way to motivate each other.
A daily walk is just one way to rack up the minutes. You can also join a community sports team and play softball, soccer, volleyball, or basketball, or a park district program with 50’s fitness classes; ride an exercise bike at home; or find the Senior Sneakers group near you.
Although vigorous activity has been shown to be very helpful to the heart, over-exercising can be dangerous for heart health. So get an OK from your doctor before you start a very energetic exercise program.
The good news is that even a little bit of movement will boost your heart health, lowering the risk of heart attacks and strokes. And you don’t have to run a marathon or join a gym to see the benefit!
Easy Ways to Exercise for 10 Minutes:
- Walk around the block.
- Do jumping jacks or march in place during TV commercials.
- Weed your garden.
- Play hide-and-seek with your child or your grandchild.
- Jump rope.
- Ride a bike around the park.
- Pace the floor when you are on the phone.
- Take 10 minutes of your lunch break to walk (working up to more minutes, if you can).