For me, taking time to stay active each day is a must. Whether it’s a quick walk or an hour-long gym session, I cherish that time because it allows me to clear my head while also improving my physical health. And while I often aim for a longer workout, thinking that the more time I put in, the more benefits I’ll get out of it, new research suggests that even a little bit of daily exercise helps boost heart health in older adults — good news for those busy days when I can’t squeeze in much time for exercise. Read on to find out how much time you need to put in to boost your heart health, according to the latest science!
A recent observational study published in JAMA Ophthalmology looked at the heart health benefits of exercise later in life. Data from this study included 2,754 Italian residents (60 percent of whom were women) with an average age of 75 years old. Researchers measured each participant’s weekly physical activity habits using a series of questionnaires collected between 1995 and 1997. Subjects reported on their exercise habits again during follow-up visits after the four- and seven-year marks.
In this study, walking and fishing were categorized as moderate physical activities, while vigorous physical activities included gardening, going to the gym, swimming, and dancing. Researchers calculated the minutes and hours participants engaged in both kinds of exercise each day. People were considered active if they engaged in at least 20 minutes of either type of physical exercise each day. If they completed less than 20 minutes of exercise, then they were considered inactive.
The Heart-Healthy Findings
Researchers found that participants who exercised for at least 20 minutes a day experienced the greatest reduction in heart disease risk. According to the findings, this positive effect was seen most strongly in men. However, the authors emphasized that active women had consistently lower rates of heart failure and heart-related deaths, despite this difference in the data.
The authors explained in an editorial paper that this benefit could be due to physical activity helping improve blood flow and circulation to the heart and throughout parts of your body. Over time, this helps you avoid blood clots that could lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Lead researcher Claudio Barbiellini, MD, wrote “movement is medicine,” and that this is true at any age. “Even a small amount of physical activity may confer beneficial effects in older people.”
Who doesn’t have 20 minutes to walk, dance, or work in the garden? The science is clear: To maintain good heart health, move your body every day. A stroll around the park or an at-home yoga session are great workouts to start living a more active lifestyle right now!