Sunday, September 17, 2006

How Much Exercise Is Needed for a Healthy Heart?

We keep hearing that we need to exercise to reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke, but how much exercise is needed if the goal is to obtain all of the important cardio-protective benefits?

The short answer is you can benefit from as little as 2.5 hours of walking per week at a pace slower than 2 miles per hour (3.2 km/hour). However, most doctors recommend a daily brisk 30 minute walk or even a 15 minute run.

The long answer is several studies have been done to evaluate the amount of exercise needed for cardio-protective effects. Here are their summarized findings.

  • The Women's Health Initiative Observational Study concluded that walking 2.5 hours per week was associated with a 30% lower cardiovascular risk than not walking.
  • The Harvard Alumni Health Study associated walking more than 5 km per week with risk reduction.
  • The Railroad Study equated walking briskly for 15 minutes per day (an increase of 73 kcal expenditure from a sedentary baseline) to a 16% reduction in heart disease mortality, and a daily 30 minute brisk walk (or 150 kcal expenditure) with a 27% reduction in the risk.

To read this in Farsi, click here.

References: Consultant, May 2006, 589-593, and the above links.


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Liam said...


I wonder, do exercises such as sit ups have significant heart benefits?

kind regards,

Dr. Taraneh Razavi said...

Hi Liam

This is a good question, but I am not aware of any studies that have evaluated exercises such as sit ups in relation to heart benefits. In theory the benefit is achieved by increasing the heart rate (ie exercising the heart muscle just like any other muscle) to an age appropriate level for a minimum of a 15-20 minute period. If sit ups would be sufficient for this I could not say, but in general any physical activity is better than no activity.

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Anonymous said...

I am a 31 man, My fiancee doesn't want me exercising because she says I am too skinny as I am now. I don't want to be unhealthy, but don't want to turn to a stick figure either.. any suggestions?

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

I've heard it debated that three lots of ten minute exercise are as beneficial as thirty minutes in one go - is this true? What research is there out there to test this?