The news about exercise we've all been waiting for

Good news for those of us who consider taking the stairs rather than the lift a praiseworthy work-out: a new study has found that even a little exercise makes all the difference – and doing more may have no extra impact.

The study, published in the journal Circulation, found middle-aged women who did strenuous physical activity – that which breaks a sweat or raises the heartbeat - just a few times during a week were 20 per cent less likely to develop heart disease, stroke and blood clots than women who did no exercise at all.

The study found more frequent and more strenuous exercise was no guarantee of a further drop in the risk of heart problems. Miranda Armstrong, the lead author of the study from the University of Oxford explained:

To prevent heart disease, stroke and blood clots, our results suggest that women don’t need to do very frequent activity as this seems to provide little additional benefit above that from moderately frequent activity.

Dr Armstrong added that too much exercise could actually be harmful, noting that there was "an increase in risk for CHD, cerebrovascular disease, and VTE in the most active group".

More than one million women in the UK with no history of cancer, heart disease, stroke, blood clots or diabetes took part in the study between 1996 and 2001.

The group, whose average age was 56, reported their levels of physical activity at the beginning of the study and then three years later. Doctors then drew their conclusions from hospital admission statistics and deaths compared against the participants’ responses since.

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