‘Brisk walk’ for 7 minutes reduces your risk of heart disease – study

Professor Hugh Watkins on genetic medicines for heart disease

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Coronary heart disease is responsible for the deaths of 64,000 Britons each year. But scientists are learning more and more about how to prevent it. It’s well known that aerobic exercise, such as a walk, can help. But new research suggests that adding a bit of pace to your walk could help as well.

A study published on Thursday (27 October) in the European Heart Journal has found that a daily brisk walk could help prevent heart disease significantly.

Researchers at the Leicester Biomedical Research Centre and University of Cambridge analysed health data of over 80,000 Britons to uncover trends about exercise and cardiovascular disease.

They spotted that the rate of cardiovascular disease was 14 percent lower in people whose exercise regime was made up of 20 percent moderate-to-vigorous exercise, compared to those who only did 10 percent worth of moderate-to-vigorous exercise.

A press release by the researchers explained this is the equivalent to “converting a daily 14-min stroll into a brisk 7-min walk”.

The researchers also discovered that the rate of heart disease didn’t change when the overall amount of physical activity increased but the proportion from moderate-to-vigorous exercise stayed the same.

Cardiovascular disease is a broad term describing conditions that affect heart and blood health, including coronary heart disease and stroke.

John Hopkins Medicine explains that exercise confers several physical benefits to the heart, including lowering blood pressure.

The health stated: “Exercise works like beta-blocker medication to slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure (at rest and also when exercising). High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease.”

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Past research has also found that exercise can slash levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol while increasing levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.

High levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis – the buildup of fatty substances on the walls of your blood vessels.

Atherosclerosis blocks blood from reaching your heart – which characterises heart disease – as well as other organs such as your brain in the case of stroke.

In the study, researchers looked at the exercise data of 88,412 middle-aged adults enrolled in the UK Biobank –  a large-scale database containing the health records of half a million people from the UK. The 88,412 involved in this research wore fitness tracking devices on their wrist for a week as part of the UK Biobank study.

The biobank participants were then followed up over an average of 6.8 years and the number of cardiovascular events, which includes strokes, and ischemic heart disease (heart disease caused by narrow arteries).

How much should you exercise, overall?

The UK guidelines, set by the UK Chief Medical Officers suggest being active daily.

They specifically recommend doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise and 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week.

Vigorous activity and strength exercises should work all major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms), explains the NHS.

If you can, it’s important to include strength exercises into your routine. Previous studies have found an association between doing strength as well as aerobic exercises and living longer.

What else can you do?

Periods of regimented exercise alone isn’t necessarily going to offset cardiovascular diseases.

Doctor Michael Blaha, director of clinical research at John Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, explained on the John Hopkins Medicine blog: “It’s common to not move much throughout the day, and then try to make up for that sedentary behavior with 45 minutes of exercise. I’m guilty of it too.

“But that small period of exercise can’t compensate for a lack of activity all day long. We need both exercise and activity.”

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