Leading an active and healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean you need to train for a marathon or spend two hours a day on your bicycle. The magic number of “30 minutes of accumulated, modest activity on most, or better yet, all, days of the week” has been shown by studies time and again to have significant health benefits, including a reduction in body weight and blood pressure, as well as a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease.
For those who aren’t sure where to find that extra half hour every day, there is good news. The fact that the 30 minutes can be accumulated intermittently throughout the day rather than continuously means that even small bouts of exercise can add up over the course of a day. So even though it may not feel like much, making minor lifestyle changes can, in fact, have a big impact on your heart. Furthermore, if you currently lead a relatively sedentary lifestyle, you will benefit even more by incorporating activity into your daily routine. In terms of mortality, studies have shown that the greatest gains occur when a person goes from a sedentary lifestyle to a moderately active one (somewhat less is gained when one transitions from being moderately active to very active).
One of the easiest activities to incorporate activity into one’s day is through walking. Indeed, walking at a brisk, but relaxed pace of 3 to 4 miles an hour is generally used as the comparable standard for what constitutes “moderate activity”. And experts such as Dr. Tim Church, whose work at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University focuses on the effects of physical activity, reiterate that walking at such a pace, though it doesn’t feel like vigorous exercise, still brings with it about 95% of the health benefits of jogging. So go ahead: take the stairs rather than the elevator. Park your car an extra block away from where you’re going. Get up from your desk a couple of times a day, and walk up and down the office hallway. These changes may seem small, but they can help your heart.