Exercising just three times a week 'still improves health'

In collaboration with the Press Association

A recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health has indicated that walking for 30 minutes just three days a week could improve people's overall fitness and maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

The UK Government currently recommends 30 minutes of moderate activity for five days every week. But since surveys have shown that is not being met by the majority of adults, Queen's University in Belfast conducted research on the effect of lighter exercise on a person's health.

Over 100 participants between the ages of 40 and 60 were asked to take part in an exercise programme to measure the differences between doing five days of vigorous exercise per week, three days of moderate exercise per week, and doing no extra exercise over the week.

The results showed that overall fitness, waist and hip girth, and blood pressure improved with both forms of exercise.

"Falls of a few millimetres in blood pressure and shrinkage of a few centimetres in hip and waist circumference are enough to make a difference to an individual's risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease," the authors said.

They added: "The findings show that moderate intensity physical exercise below the recommended weekly levels still makes a difference to health."

Henry Scowcroft, Senior Information Officer at Cancer Research UK, said that this was good news for people who were struggling to reach the government targets.

"People can often feel they've failed if they haven't hit the 30-minutes-a-day figure, and this research shows that this isn't the case."

But he pointed out that the government figure was still the one to aim for.

"30 minutes a day is still the target to aim for if you want to make a serious impact on your health," he added.

Studies have found that regular exercise can decrease the risk of bowel cancer, while inactivity appears to decrease the risk of breast cancer.

Several other cancers are indirectly linked to exercise levels since they are linked to obesity, including breast, womb and kidney cancers.