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Light exercise health benefits

14th August 2007

Scientists say that people could reduce their blood pressure and improve their levels of fitness even by low levels of weekly exercise.

obese1Previously, experts said that walking for half an hour five days a week was the minimum amount of exercise needed to see real health benefits. But the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health report from Northern Ireland claims walking on as little as three days a week was enough to give similar benefits.

Researchers at Queen’s University, Belfast looked at 106 “healthy but sedentary? civil servants aged between 40 and 61 and asked them to take part in a 12-week exercise programme. Some did 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week and others did it three days a week, while the rest did not change their lifestyles.

The blood pressure, weight and hip circumferences, and other indicators of fitness were all measured before and after the study.

The non-walking group showed no changes. But in both walking groups there was a significant drop in blood pressure and waist and hip measurements. And all walkers improved fitness.

Lead researcher Dr Mark Tully said exercising five days a week should still be the minimum goal, as it had greater positive effects on blood pressure but added: “To get to that goal the first hurdle could be to exercise three days a week – it’s a more achievable target to build up from.?

The report authors said such changes were enough to make a difference to a person’s risk of dying from stroke or heart disease.

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