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When it comes to exercise, a little may go a long way.

A new study finds that even low amounts of weekly physical activity can reduce blood pressure and improve overall fitness in adults, a new study finds.

The 12-week study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, included 106 healthy, but sedentary, people ages 40 to 60.

Researchers at Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland, had 44 of the participants do 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week, while 42 others did 30 minutes of brisk walking three days a week. The rest of the participants maintained their normal lifestyle.

By the end of the study, there was a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure and waist and hip girth in both groups of walkers, along with an increase in overall fitness. The non-walkers had no changes in any of these areas.

The authors noted that even slimming a few centimeters off hip and waist circumference and gaining a slight reduction in blood pressure is enough to reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

Currently, it’s recommended that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderately strenuous exercise at least five days a week. But many people find it difficult to meet that goal. This study shows that people can still gain health benefits even if they can only manage three sessions of moderate intensity exercise a week, the authors said. Let our personal trainers at Gold’s Gym in Newburgh NY show you the way to fitness!

Originally published by HealthDay News.

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For millions of overweight, couch-bound Americans, the word “exercise” conjures up visions of hectic aerobics classes, marathon running or hours-long workouts at the gym.

It’s all a bit daunting.

But new research is beginning to change that view. Study after study is showing that small amounts of physical activity — even walking the dog — can boost health in unexpected ways.

“For some people, it’s as simple as parking their car on the far side of the parking lot and walking, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. But the more you do, the better,” said Dr. Gerald Fletcher, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and a spokesman for the American Heart Association.

More and more, fitness experts and physicians are discovering that exercise, like medicine, works on a dose-response basis — even a little is good, moderate amounts are better, and vigorous exercise provides even more rewards.

Some evidence from the recent literature:

A Duke University study of 133 overweight people found that a moderate fitness regimen involving a brisk one- to two-mile walk, four or five days a week, offered big improvements in cardiovascular health;A similar study, this time from the University of Florida, Gainesville, found that walking just a half-hour a day for five or more days a week greatly boosted the heart health of middle-aged “couch potatoes”;In a Seattle study, an hour per week spent gardening cut cardiac arrest risk by 66 percent; an hour per week spent walking slashed that risk by 73 percent;People suffering from the painful condition peripheral arterial disease (PAD) also reaped real benefits from walking just three times a week, a Northwestern University study found;And a University of Missouri-Columbia study found that even our four-legged friends can help: Researchers found that overweight individuals who walked their dogs each day dropped an average of 14 pounds over the course of a year — beating the results of most weight-loss plans.

Fletcher said it’s important to get into a good exercise routine, preferably engaging in physical activity at the same time of day, each day. “Also, if you try and exercise two or three times a week, but then take a few days off, that’s not as good as doing something most days,” he said.

If walking a mile or two seems tough to visualize, he recommends driving it first in your car — watching the odometer to see just how far a distance it is from your home. “Then, walk to that point each day,” he said. Often, a little bit of exercise feels so good it gradually turns into a little bit more, he said.

“You can get more vigorous as you go,” Fletcher added. “We consider (walking) a 20-minute mile ‘moderate’ exercise. Walking or running that mile in 15 minutes gets into the area of ‘vigorous exercise.’”

Besides helping to shed pounds and bring a healthy elasticity to your step (and arteries), exercise can help clear the mind, too.

“What the studies are showing is that exercise, at least when performed in a group setting, seems to be at least as effective as standard antidepressants in reducing symptoms in patients with major depression,” researcher James Blumenthal, a professor of medical psychology at Duke University in Durham, N.C., toldHealthDay.

Right now, just sitting on the sofa for long stretches is probably giving millions of Americans the blues, Fletcher pointed out. “Only about 25 percent of us exercise properly, and about 20 percent do absolutely nothing. The rest are in the middle — sometimes they do it, sometimes they don’t.”

Before beginning any exercise routine, it’s important to check with your doctor, particularly if you have a history of health problems. Then, once you get clearance, get moving.

The key, Fletcher said, is to start your physical-activity routine with small steps — literally.

“Walk a little, bike,” he said. “Remember, anything you do is better than nothing at all.”Originally published on HealthDay

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