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A brisk walk could reduce risk of heart disease

(AP) — You don’t have to get all sweaty to avoid heart disease — brisk walking is just fine.

Either three hours of brisk walking per week or half that time spent working up a sweat at jogging, aerobic dance or other vigorous exercise reduced the risk of heart disease 35 percent to 40 percent in a study of 72,488 women.

The study also suggests it’s never too late to start: Women who were couch potatoes when the eight-year study began reduced their risk of heart trouble by about the same amount as those who were active from the start.



”For many people, recommendations to do strenuous exercise may have served as a barrier to becoming physically active. These results are encouraging,” said Dr. JoAnn E. Manson, a professor at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who oversaw the research, which was part of the long-running Nurses Health Study.

”In order to walk all you need is good pair of walking shoes. It’s simple, convenient, safe and accessible. Almost anyone can do it.”




Most studies of exercise and the heart have looked at men; this analysis of questionnaires from women ages 40 to 65 is the first large study to look at women and walking, according to the hospital.

The study was published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.

Strolling won’t do it, no matter how long you walk, Manson said. You have to stride out at 3 mph or more, or 20 minutes or less per mile.

But three hours of brisk walking and 1+ hours of vigorous exercise use the same amount of energy, and that’s the key. Walking briskly for five hours a week cut the risk of heart attacks 50 percent, Manson said.

Even one to 2.9 hours of brisk walking a week brought a 30 percent reduction in heart attacks and deaths from other coronary problems.

”We feel it’s a very important study that once again points out the value of moderate amounts of physical activity in maintaining heart health,” said Dr. Teri Manolio of the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute, which paid for the study.

Dr. Gerald Fletcher, a spokesman for the American Heart Association, said the study backs up the association’s call for regular exercise.

People seem to think that ”exercise” means ”go for it,” Fletcher said. ”Walking, particularly briskly, is just as good as a rough game of soccer or hiking mountains, or going to a health club and lifting weights.”


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