Friday, August 24, 2007

Even a little exercise has health benefits

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new study shows that even low levels of weekly exercise - below currently recommended levels -- has major health benefits. In the study, 30 minutes of brisk walking three days per week was enough to drive down blood pressure and improve overall fitness in a group of healthy sedentary adults.

For optimum health, adults are currently recommended to engage in 30 minutes of moderately strenuous exercise on at least five days of the week. But few people achieve this level of weekly activity, often citing lack of time as the reason.

Dr. Mark A. Tully, of University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, and colleagues designed a study to see if exercising at a level lower than currently recommended would boost overall fitness and heart health.

A total of 106 healthy but sedentary adults between the ages of 40 and 61 years participated in the 12-week study. The subjects were randomly assigned to a brisk 30-minute walk 3 days per week (44 subjects); a brisk 30-minute walk 5 days per week (42 subjects); and the remainder did not change their lifestyle (the non-walking control group).

After 12 weeks, Tully's team found that blood pressure and waist and hip girth fell significantly in both the 3-day walkers and 5-day walkers. Overall fitness also increased in both walking groups. In contrast, no changes occurred in the non-walking control group.

The findings of the study appear in the September edition of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The authors note that the degree of positive change in blood pressure and waist and hip size seen in the 3- and 5-day walkers is enough to make a difference to an individual's risk of heart disease.

"These results may encourage people who feel they do not have time to exercise on 5 days each week to consider finding time to commit to a lower weekly target of exercise," Tully and colleagues conclude.

SOURCE: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, September 2007.


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