(NaturalNews) It doesn't take a lot of exercise to reap significant health benefits, and people should not be intimidated if they can't reach the officially recommended levels, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, and published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
According to current health recommendations, adults should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderately strenuous activity at least five days per week, or 20 minutes of vigorous exercise three days per week, in order to remain healthy and reduce their risk of health problems such as cardiovascular disease.
Moderately intense exercise is defined as activity that causes a small increase in breathing or heart rate, including brisk walking, bicycling, gardening, or vacuuming. Vigorous exercise, such as aerobics, running or heavy yard work, causes a large increase in breathing or heart rate.
In the current study, however, even people who exercised substantially less showed enough improvement in health measures after 12 weeks to significantly reduce their risk of heart disease.
Researchers divided 106 healthy, sedentary women and men between the ages of 40 and 61 years into three groups. Participants in the first group went on a brisk, 30-minute walk three days a week. Participants in the second group went on a brisk, thirty-minute walk five days a week. Participants in the final group were not assigned to any change in exercise level.
After 12 weeks, blood pressure, waist girth and hip girth fell significantly in both groups of walkers, with no significant change in the sedentary control group. Overall fitness also improved in the walking groups, with no change in the control group.
According to the study's authors, these changes are enough to provide major health benefits.
"These results may encourage people who feel they do not have time to exercise ... to consider finding time to commit to a lower weekly target of exercise," they wrote.