Those who do 150 minutes of "moderate-intensity leisure activity" have a 14% lower chance of developing coronary heart disease compared to individuals who are physically inactive, the researchers explained.
The authors added that the more exercise you do the lower the risk. They found that individuals who engaged in the equivalent of 300 minutes of moderate-intensity leisure-time physical activity per week had a 20% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease.
Even if you do less than the 2 hours 30 minutes moderate exercise each week, which US authorities recommend, your risk of developing coronary heart disease is still much less than for someone who does nothing.
Jacob Sattelmair, ScD., said:
"The overall findings of the study corroborate federal guidelines - even a little bit of exercise is good, but more is better - 150 minutes of exercise per week is beneficial, 300 minutes per week will give even more benefits."
Sattelmair explained that this study is unlike previous ones, because it included quantitative assessments - it determined how much physical activity a person has to do in order to reduce their risk of coronary heart disease. The study also assessed the magnitude of benefit.
The investigators gathered data on over 3,000 physical activity and heart disease studies. They ended up with a selected shortlist of 33 studies, which they analyzed carefully. In nine of them they could measure leisure activity quantitatively.
The authors explained:
"Early studies broke people into groups such as active and sedentary. More recent studies have begun to assess the actual amount of physical activity people are getting and how that relates to their risk of heart disease."
The researchers also reported that the results were stronger in females than in males.
The authors concluded:
"These findings provide quantitative data supporting US physical activity guidelines that stipulate that "some physical activity is better than none" and "additional benefits occur with more physical activity."
Coronary heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, is a narrowing of the blood vessels that supply oxygen and blood to the heart.