It’s true, and there is irrefutable evidence on how to lower your risk of developing chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression and osteoporosis.
Medical researchers who analyze the determinants of long, healthy lives have identified one common factor: regular physical exercise. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of colon and breast cancer by as much as 40%! Studies have also confirmed it reduces ovarian, prostate, and lung cancers. Other research has concluded that being fit can reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes by over 50%! (1)
Although it’s not fully understood why exercise has such a dramatic impact on cancer and cardiovascular health it is clear that aerobic exercise like running, swimming, cycling and brisk walking - which can easily be tracked with an exercise tracker or pedometer - has the desired effect.
However, to get this benefit from physical activity you need to exercise at a minimum intensity and duration. Opinions differ on the exact intensity and exercise time, but generally you need to exercise at a minimum of 60% - 75% of your maximum heart rate for 30 – 60 minutes, at least 3 days a week. (2)
A quick way to determine your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) is with a simple formula: MHR = 220 – Age. So if you are 50 years old, your MHR is 170 beats per minute (BPM) and if you exercise at 60%, your heart rate will be 102 BPM.
People can track their heart rate by counting their heart beats while pressing on the carotid artery in the neck over a specific time period. For instance, if you count 23 beats over 15 seconds, multiply by 4 to get the number of beats in a minute. In this example 23 x 4 is 92. Our 50 year old has to increase intensity so that their heart is beating at 25-26 beats over 15 seconds, or 60% of their MHR.
Alternatively, people can use an exercise watch that measures heart rate. Most importantly, people need to maintain their heart rate at a minimum of 60% of MHR for at least 30 minutes, 3 days a week.
People who exercise regularly have habituated this behavior. It becomes part of their normal routine in life and they commit time to doing it.
Author: Mark Beaton, Sr. VP of BIOS Medical
- Darren E.R. Warburton, Crystal Whitney Nicol, Shannon S.D. Bredin. Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence Canadian Medical Association Journal, Mar 14, 2006
- Jonathan Myers, Exercise and Cardiovascular Health, Circulation, Jan 7, 2003