Intelligent Questions to Ask Your Doctor Spring 2015

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    Running even 5 to 10 minutes a day can boost longevity and reduce one’s risk of death from all causes, including heart disease, suggests a recent study. 

    Q: Should I swap my 30-minute daily walk for a quick 10-minute jog?

    A: The national guidelines from several leading health organizations emphasize the need to perform 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day, or 150 minutes per week. This is based on strong evidence from numerous studies. There has always been flexibility in these guidelines, recognizing that short bouts of higher-intensity exercise are also effective for health and fitness, such as jogging 75 minutes per week instead of walking [twice that]. This new report also suggests that short amounts of daily exercise may be beneficial, particularly for preventing heart disease. Although this is consistent with existing guidelines, keep in mind that this was not a randomized trial: It focused only on jogging and running, and we do not know what other types of activities the individuals did at the time of the survey or long term. Yet compared with people who reported no activity, even these short bouts of exercise seemed to reap benefits.

    If someone has established a daily routine that includes 30 minutes of walking, I recommend continuing that routine [rather than substituting the walk with 10 minutes of jogging]. However, if someone cannot put in the time on a particular day, then a short bout of more intense exercise would be OK. It should be emphasized that when someone exercises for less time, the guidelines say that the exercise should be more vigorous. One cannot just cut back on walking time, but must increase the pace if the workout is to promote benefits. 

    Remember that even a very slow jog is faster than a brisk walk. In the study, jogging at a pace of less than 6 miles per hour was shown to be beneficial. Yet for some people, slow jogging compared with walking may increase the risk of muscle and joint injury. Also, persons with several cardiovascular disease risk factors such as existing heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension, among other conditions, may need to seek medical clearance before undertaking more intense activity, even if it is for only 5 to 10 minutes [at a time].

    —Kerry J. Stewart, EdD, FACSM, Professor of Medicine and Director, Clinical and Research Exercise Physiology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

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