As a thyroid patient, you may be aware that you face an increased risk of heart disease. A slower metabolism can also make it harder for you to lose weight. All this means that physical activity becomes nearly as important to your health as taking your daily thyroid pill. But how much physical activity do you really need to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, and help extend your lifespan?
Scientists now have an answer, based on a study of more than 130,000 in 17 countries over 7 years, and published in the prestigious journal The Lancet.
It turns out that 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days each week — 150 minutes of activity per week — is enough to make a significant dent in your risk of cardiovascular disease, such as stroke and heart attack.
Even better? A total of 750 minutes each week was associated with the greatest benefit and lowering of risk.
Unless you’re a gym rat or athlete, many of us are not exercising at even the minimum 150 minutes per week. You may not even have enough time to dedicate a few hours a week to exercise. But there’s good news. You don’t need a gym membership, special clothes, or sports equipment. All movement and physical activity — whether formal exercise, sports, physical recreation, or physical activities such as walking and household chores — count equally toward your activity totals.
The researchers found that those who had 150 minutes of activity minimum each week had a 20 to 30 percent lower risk of heart disease and stroke, compared to those who did not meet the minimum recommendations. And the type of activity didn’t matter, as long as people were physically moving.
According to the study’s principal investigator, Prof. Salim Yusuf, director of the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada:
“If everyone was active for at least 150 minutes per week, over 7 years, a total of 8 percent of deaths could be prevented.”
Around the world, it’s estimated that 23 percent of people don’t meet the recommended levels. But in the United States, there are estimates that as much as 79 percent of adults do not meet the 150-minute target each week.
How to meet the activity levels
The researchers recommend that we all aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, plus some strength training twice a week. But the key question is, how do you do it?
Whenever you read about adding more activity to your life, you will hear the usual recommendations to walk or bike for transportation, use your treadmill while you watch television, use a wearable tracker like a Fitbit and aim for 10,000 steps a day, and take the stairs instead of the elevator. But if you need even some more inspiration on how to incorporate activity into your daily life, here are some resources to help:
My personal favorite
My go-to way of fitting activity into my daily life is my T-Tapp workout DVDs. This muscle-activation approach to movement is an effective workout that doesn’t leave me sore and exhausted. T-Tapp combines aerobic and weight bearing muscle-building, so it’s a one-stop effort. Also, I am a bit too klutzy for Zumba or dance aerobics, but T-Tapp doesn’t require athletic prowess or coordination. You can learn more about T-Tapp at http://www.t-tapp.com.
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Mary Shomon is a thyroid disease, hormonal and autoimmune health writer, and patient advocate. For two decades, Mary has been a leading force advocating for more effective, patient-centered thyroid and hormonal health care. Mary is the New York Times bestselling author of “The Thyroid Diet Revolution,” “Your Healthy Pregnancy with Thyroid Disease,” “Living Well With Hypothyroidism,” and 10 other books on thyroid disease and integrative health. She co-stars in two PBS health specials, “Healthy Hormones,” and “Vibrant for Life.” Follow her on Twitter at @thyroidmary or at her Facebook communities: ThyroidSupport and ThyroidDiet.