Research just threw the trump card on your workout excuses: A new study finds that you can add years to your life by doing as little as 35 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, which breaks down to just five minutes a day. With it, you'll still notch some staggering health numbers: slashing your risk of a heart disease–related death by 45 percent and your chances of dying of any cause by 30 percent.
For years, the federal government has recommended 75 minutes of intense physical activity or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week to keep your heart healthy and to avoid an early death. This is still the ideal to shoot for, says Timothy Church, co-author of the study and a professor at Louisiana State University's Pennington Biomedical Research Center. "However, exercise is not an all-or-nothing thing," he says. "We've shown that if you do any amount over 35 minutes a week, no matter how you break it up, you'll get a lot of benefit."
To reach this conclusion, Church and his team analyzed the running habits — or lack thereof — of more than 55,000 adults over 15 years. They found significantly fewer heart problems and early deaths among all runners — even those who jogged as little as 35 minutes a week — than non-runners. Speed didn't seem to matter either. Even the least committed runners who ran 10-minute miles or slower had very similar outcomes to those who ran faster and more frequently.
Although this study looked at runners specifically, Church says you can score the same heart-health perks by doing any kind of cardio, like cycling, swimming, or playing pickup basketball. His team focused on running only because it has received a lot of negative press lately, with reports linking it to heart attacks or death. Church says these claims are unjustified. "I hear all the time that people quit running because of some news article," he says. "It wasn't our intent to show that running is better than any other workout — just that running is safe and very beneficial."
So, what type of cardio is best? "The one that you enjoy and will actually do," Church is quick to say. "It's all about getting your mitochondria to work. I don't care how you do it. Just got off that chair and do something."
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