Even for people who love to work out, reporting for exercise duty for 30 minutes or more on most days of the week -- month after month and year after year-- can be a physical, mental, and logistical challenge.
For people who don't work out at all because they've found ways to convince themselves that they don't have the time or interest, those 30+ minutes that health experts often recommend can seem impossible.
Within reasonable limits, more exercise is better for you than less exercise. Physical activity is a fundamental way to trim away extra pounds or keep you from becoming overweight. It treats or prevents diabetes and high blood pressure. It helps keeps your heart healthy and can even protect you from cancer. It's a mood-lifter, too. Why wouldn't you want this free protection?
Well, for starters, people often point out that they don't have time in their schedules to devote a block toward moving around. Or they're already tired. Or they don't like to sweat. Or that it's inconvenient to go to the gym. But all of these problems have solutions, and a new study may help you confront the first issue.
In the study, published in the journal Circulation, researchers pooled the results of 33 earlier studies that looked at the effects of physical activity on preventing coronary heart disease. They found that people who got 150 minutes of moderate physical activity in their leisure time each week (a familiar amount that experts recommend) had a 14 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to people who got no such activity.
However, people who got twice as much -- 300 minutes weekly -- didn't have a corresponding drop in risk. Instead, they just had a 20 percent lower risk. And people who got less activity than the minimum recommended amount still had a significantly lower risk than the non-exercisers.
In short, the researchers concluded that some physical activity is better than none.
In other words, perfect is the enemy of good. If you're not exercising regularly, don't let the idea of 30 minutes a day keep you from even starting. If you need to ease into it, then ease into it. Making a big health-related change isn't usually easy. Taking a gradual approach may help you successfully become a regular exerciser.
So spend part of your lunch break walking 15 minutes. Make an extra loop around the department store when you're finished shopping. Take your child to the park after school -- and play hard once you're there -- instead of watching TV. If you can't get 30 minutes a day now, just do what you can until you get there.
In the meantime, whatever you get is better than doing nothing at all, at least in terms of your heart (and in all likelihood for the rest of your body).
For more on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out Dr. Cynthia Haines' book, The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System (HCI Books, Dr. Cynthia Haines and Eric Metcalf). This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms. More medical care doesn't mean better health. Dr. Cynthia Haines and Metcalf reveal some of the most egregious problems with a medical system gone awry, opening readers' eyes to how to better navigate the changes underway. Using solid research, insiders' insights, and patient anecdotes, they offer cost-effective and potentially life-saving ways to get more out of health care while using less of it. Find Dr. Cynthia Haines on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/DrCindyHaines, the Dr. Cynthia Haines YouTube channel, Twitter @drcindyhaines, and www.drcindyhaines.com.