The following article appeared in the Sunday, November 6, 2005 edition of the Indianapolis Star.


By Natalie Gott - Associated Press

RALIEGH, N.C. - There's no need to run. Just going for a brisk walk may be enough to help keep your heart healthy, a small study suggests. This study, which indicates roughly two to three hours of mild exercise a week at a moderate intensity can significantly cut the risk of cardiovascular disease, supports earlier research.

The findings may encourage those reluctant to exercise, said Brian Duscha, lead author of the study, published in the journal Chest. "If you just walk 12 miles a week at a brisk pace, it's scientifically proven now that you will get some benefits", he said.

The conclusions are based on a study at Duke University Medical Center of 133 middle-aged, overweight sedentary men and women who were at risk for heart disease. Broken into four groups, the volunteers either did not exercise, walked for 12 brisk miles a week at a moderate intensity, walked briskly or jogged slowly 12 miles a week at a vigorous intensity, or jogged 20 miles a week at a vigorous intensity.

The researchers studied two measurements of fitness - time to exhaustion and oxygen consumption. The better shape a person is in, the more oxygen can be consumed and used, Duscha said.

All the exercise groups saw fitness improvements. And when the two groups that walked 12 miles at differing intensity levels were compared, there wasn't a significant difference in peak oxygen consumption. There was an improvement for those who jogged vigorously 20 miles a week.

As to the exercising volunteers' minimal weight loss - an average of 3 pounds over the eight-month study period - Duscha said that didn't matter. People who don't exercise and maintain the same diet will gain up to 4 pounds a year, according to an earlier analysis of the same study participants.