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Healthy Living

Take a Hike for Heart's Sake

Take a Hike

Women don't need to kill themselves at the gym to guard against heart disease. A new study says a brisk walk a few times a week will do.

The study, led by JoAnn E. Manson of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, also found that even couch potatoes who started walking late in life gained cardiovascular benefits. Researchers analyzed data on 72,488 women ages 40 to 65 in 1986 to determine whether walking could provide the same protection against heart disease as vigorous exercise. Study results, published in the August 26 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, show women who walked three or more hours per week could reduce their risk of heart disease and heart-related conditions by 30 percent to 40 percent. Five hours of walking a week cut heart disease risk in half.

Research shows a third of heart-related problems among middle-aged American women are caused by physical inactivity. The findings have wide public health implications, researchers say, because they show people can protect themselves from heart disease with simple, but regular, physical activity. Heart disease is the number-one killer among American women, according to the American Heart Association, claiming the lives of nearly 250,000 women here each year.

Researchers recommend people walk or bike to work instead of driving; climb the stairs instead of taking an elevator; and using lunch-time breaks to exercise.

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