12 minutes of exercise might lower risks for heart disease and diabetes

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Published: February, 2021

Ever wonder how much exercise time it takes to start reducing your risk for heart disease and diabetes? It could be as little as 12 minutes, according to a Harvard study published Nov. 17, 2020, in Circulation. Scientists analyzed blood from more than 400 middle-aged men and women before and just after they'd pedaled for 12 minutes on cycling machines, reaching a vigorous rate. In particular, scientists measured levels of almost 600 natural body chemicals (metabolites). Exercise produced significant changes in most metabolites. For example, the level of one metabolite linked to heart disease and diabetes fell by 29%. Another metabolite tied to diabetes risk and liver disease fell by 18%. That suggests, but doesn't prove, that 12 minutes of daily exercise (that includes vigorous activity) might reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. What if you're more of a moderate-intensity exerciser? "We don't know yet if moderate-intensity exercise would have a similar effect on metabolites. But study participants started off with very light exercise, and each minute the intensity increased," says Dr. Gregory Lewis, the study's senior author and a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

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