Getting your daily dose of exercise used to be easy (at least by American Heart Association standards): Just walk briskly for a half hour. Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity activity a day was all you needed to slash your risk of heart failure and improve overall health and wellness. But a new report in the journal Circulation reveals that the AHA’s guidelines fall way short of the actual amount of exercise required to reap those benefits. The new recommendation: One to two hours a day.
The report — a meta-analysis of 12 studies that followed 370,460 men and women who recorded their daily activities — correlated exercise duration with long-term heart health. The finding: While participants who followed the AHA’s guidelines experienced a “modest” (10 percent) reduction in the risk of heart failure, those who exercised for twice and four times as long (60 and 120 minutes), experienced a 20 percent and 35 percent reduction, respectively.
Does that mean you should double, triple, or quadruple your exercise time? Not if you know this workaround: Amp up the intensity of your workouts. One minute of vigorous activity (think: running, playing basketball, cycling uphill, or doing a metabolic training program like INSANITY) equals two minutes of moderate intensity activity (walking, riding a bike leisurely, pushing a lawnmower), according to the Centers for Disease Control. In short, by sweating harder, you can cut your workout time in half, finishing each sweat session in 30 minutes or less.
How hard is hard enough? If you find holding a conversation difficult, you’ve nailed it. But you should never finish a workout feeling drained. Your goal is always to walk away feeling energized, not spent and defeated.
Now for the caveat: Don’t stop walking. You don’t have to carve out time to walk laps around your office building, but spreading short bouts of moderate-intensity activity throughout your day will ultimately add up to greater mobility, more energy and stamina, and less fat and fatigue.