Regular exercise benefits your heart—period. Moving more reduces blood pressure, helps you lose weight ("which in turn helps optimize heart health"), slows diabetes, builds muscle and aerobic capacity, and reduces stress, according to John Hopkins Medical Center experts.
However, a big new study in PLOS Medicine is revealing how much exercise—including walking—you need daily to improve heart health.
Oxford University researchers examined 90,211 persons' activity records from the UK Biobank, a massive health and lifestyle database with records for over 500,000 participants aged 40–69. The researchers divided participants by weekly exercise and intensity. The researchers then identified the individuals who had heart disease.
The analysis showed that people who didn't exercise doubled their risk of heart disease, while those who walked more than two hours a day (including grocery shopping) and exercised more vigorously for 50 minutes a week had no risk and enjoyed even greater heart disease protection.
The New York Times reports that the study "does not prove that walks and other activities, directly strengthen people's hearts," but "[it proves] that the two are linked."
The study also underlines that daily exercise has no limit on heart-health advantages. "In this large population-based cohort, higher levels of moderate-intensity and vigorous intensity physical activities
as well as total volume, were inversely associated with incident cardiovascular disease with no threshold effect," the study found. "The lack of a threshold effect supports the UK Chief Medical Officer's report that'some physical activity is good, but more is better.'"