Study Says Just 11 Minutes of Brisk Walking Every Day Is Enough to Stave Off Heart Disease and Early Death

Grab your sneakers—we're going on a walk!

Scientific research is constantly confirming just how important physical activity is for overall health and longevity—something we’re pretty much all vaguely aware of in one way or another. But more research is also emerging with clear evidence that doesn’t take an unreasonable amount of exercise, expensive classes and gym memberships, or an enormous lifestyle overhaul to benefit significantly from being physically active. A small amount of moderate-intensity movement—even just 10 or 11 minutes a day—is far better than no movement at all.


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Exercise is essential for supporting heart health, cognitive health, mental health, immune function, metabolic health, sleep, and so much more. But what kind of exercise, and how much exercise, is enough to stay healthy and live longer—to fend off the most prevalent diseases and risk factors for premature death, like cardiovascular disease, stroke, and certain cancers? 

In the largest study analysis on the association between physical activity levels and risk of heart disease, cancer, and early death, researchers at the University of Cambridge examined the results from 196 peer-reviewed articles, including over 30 million participants from 94 large study cohorts.

The results of the meta-analysis, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, yielded a delightfully attainable, definitive amount of exercise needed daily to help reduce your risk for heart disease and premature death: 

At the very least, outside of work-related activity, 11 minutes a day of moderate-intensity exercise (75 minutes a week) was found to be enough to reduce the risk of dying prematurely by 23 percent, developing cardiovascular disease by 17 percent, and even developing certain cancers by a small, but notable, 7 percent.

“We know that physical activity, such as walking or cycling, is good for you, especially if you feel it raises your heart rate. But what we’ve found is there are substantial benefits to heart health and reducing your risk of cancer even if you can only manage 10 minutes every day,” said study co-author James Woodcock, Ph.D., M.Sc., a professor in the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit in a news release.

This is fantastic news for anyone who falls short of meeting the generally recommended exercise guidelines of 22 to 43 minutes a day (150 to 300 minutes per week) of moderate-intensity activity (don't worry, that's most of us).

“This is also a good starting position,” adds another study author Soren Brage, Ph.D., group leader of the Physical Activity Epidemiology group. “[I]f you find that 75 minutes a week is manageable, then you could try stepping it up gradually to the full recommended amount.”

On busy days, when all you can manage is an energetic, 10-minute walk around your neighborhood or a bike ride to a friend’s house, you’ll still be doing yourself a world of good. A brisk, vigorous walk is one of the healthiest, cheapest, and lowest-impact forms of moderate-intensity physical activity you can do, and it’s something most people can layer more conveniently into the fabric of their lives than going for an intense run or hopping on the Peloton for a HIIT class. Can you get off the bus one stop earlier and walk home for an extra 10 minutes (safety permitting!)? Can you bike to work instead of drive? Can you grab lunch at the slightly-farther-away sandwich shop? Can you say “yes” to that game of tag with your kids today? Your heart will thank you!

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