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Even A Little Bit Of Exercise Could Ward Off Heart Disease

Heart Disease

Huffington Post   First Posted: 08/02/11 02:31 PM ET Updated: 10/02/11 06:12 AM ET

Here's another reason to take the stairs: Just getting a little bit of exercise -- even if it's not the full U.S.-recommended 150 minutes a week -- still helps ward off heart disease, especially in women, according to a new review of studies.

Researchers examined 33 studies and found that even people who exercise fewer than 150 minutes a week have a lower risk of coronary heart disease than people who don't exercise at all.

"The biggest health benefits we saw were for those who went from doing nothing to those doing something small," study researcher Jacob Sattelmair, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, told USA Today. "Even a little bit of activity makes a significant difference," where a "little bit" means 10 to 15 minutes a day of exercise.

But of course, the heart-protection benefits increased with more time spent exercising: people who exercise 150 minutes a week have a 14 percent lower heart disease risk than people who don't exercise at all, and those who exercise 300 minutes a week have a 20 percent lower heart disease risk than people who don't exercise, the review said.

Researchers also found that women seemed to benefit more from these little moments of exercise than men, but "we did not have a good explanation for why this is," Sattelmair told USA Today .

However, some possible reasons include that women are less likely in the first place to develop coronary heart disease than men, and that other factors -- like diet -- could be at play, LiveScience reported.

Exercise helps the heart because it lowers blood pressure and the resting heart rate, HealthDay reported. It can also help to prevent diabetes by increasing the body's sensitivity to insulin, and it also boosts "good" HDL cholesterol.

Exercise has also been shown to ward off premature aging in mice, researchers found earlier this year.

And past research shows that heart patients could actually benefit more from exercise than from having a surgical procedure (angioplasty).

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