Wiggle it just a little bit

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For those who are daunted by the current federal recommendation of 150 minutes of physical activity a week, new findings suggest that as little as 10 or 15 minutes a day could still reduce the risk of heart disease. In a review published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) updated its exercise guidelines for the first time since 1998. Even a little bit of activity makes a significant difference, said Dr. Jacob Sattelmair, lead author of the study.

While the ACSM emphasized that a greater amount of exercise is needed to maintain a healthy weight and achieve maximum benefits, they saw distinct health benefits in people who went from being inactive to exercising at moderate intensity for as little as 10 to 15 minutes a day, or 75 minutes a week. What they found, in fact, was a progressive reduction of risk for heart disease: People who engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (or 75 minutes at high intensity) a week have a 14 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who are sedentary. Even a formerly sedentary person who begins exercising at a moderate intensity for just 75 minutes a week could still reduce her risk of heart disease by 7 percent.

It certainly is an encouraging way to get people to start, says ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. She pointed out that just a 10- to 15-minute walk could make a difference in someone s health.