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No magic number for optimal workout time

By Emilie Medland-Marchen, October 13 2015 –

A recent study published in the cardiovascular health journal Circulation suggests that 30 minutes of daily physical activity, the guideline suggested by the American Heart Association, is not enough for optimum heart health.

The study, presented by professor Jarett Berry from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, tracked the daily activities of 370,460 people over a 15-year period. Those who exercised for 30 minutes each day had only modest reductions in the risk of heart failure, whereas those who quadrupled that exercise time had a much lower risk. These results suggest that 30 minutes of daily exercise is not a ‘magic number’ for optimal exercise. Optimum results come from double or quadruple that amount.

This new information throws a wrench into the plans of many students and young adults who struggle to balance work and studies with physical exercise. It also conflicts with Alberta public schools’ implementation of a 30-minute daily physical activity requirement, as the study suggests that this mark should be a bare minimum rather than a complete guideline.

But this study isn’t a radical one. It simply reflects the fact that a sedentary lifestyle has become normalized in Canadian living. Many people struggle to find the time to fit in just 30 minutes of exercise each day and would feel guilty knowing they won’t be able to fit in the full one to two recommended hours of exercise.

But this shouldn’t guilt people into feeling they have to exercise more. It’s hard enough for many people to fit 30 minutes into their busy lifestyles, let alone two hours — especially students, who may be in class and studying for up to 12 hours a day.

These problems are perfectly understandable for those with hectic and demanding lifestyles. It’s too much to expect someone coming out of a sedentary lifestyle to jump straight into two hours of daily activity. In fact, doing so could lead to injury, or put someone off of exercising altogether.

Students and workers shouldn’t feel guilty for not being able to do more than 30 minutes a day of daily physical activity, but they should still strive to reach the two-hour daily goal, even if they only get
halfway there. While two hours of daily physical activity may be optimal, everything between that mark and 30 minutes still brings a greater reduction of the risk of heart failure.

It may be difficult, but starting small and building slowly should allow for progression towards greater heart health — even if it takes a while to get there.

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