Walking 21 minutes a day reduces the risk of heart disease by 30%

fFrom pumping your system full of mood-boosting endorphins to building muscle endurance to optimizing your oxygen intake, the benefits of aerobic exercise are numerous, especially when it comes to keeping your heart healthy. Not to get too sick, but heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). On the bright side, though, walking is one of the best ways to show your ticker some TLC.

In fact, there are few better ways to ensure your own heart health than a simple walk. Tom Frieden, MD, former director of the CDC, said Harvard Health that it is “the closest thing to a wonder drug.” No prescription required.

But how much walking is necessary to get those benefits? “Walking for 2.5 hours a week—that’s just 21 minutes a day—can reduce your risk of heart disease by 30 percent,” according to a Harvard Medical School review that synthesized research on the topic. Put another way, walking 30 minutes five times a week will improve your cardiovascular risk by 1/3 over the long term.

Cardiac surgeon Brian Lima, MD, explains that the benefits for your heart include “reducing risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol, blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.” Basically, your chances of heart disease increase when you have conditions that walking can help prevent. So walking strengthens your heart by attacking the root cause of the problem, as well as putting your body at less risk, making you an overall healthier person.

This is one of the easiest exercise habits to adopt. You can go for a walk around the block or visit your neighborhood coffee shop like this editor who made a morning walk her am caffeine ritual—and reaped major benefits in addition to strengthening her heart. Or, you can spice things up with hills and gaps. Either way, these walking shoes will help you get the most out of your mileage (and your heart).

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