When told to exercise more to amp up heart health, it can sound overwhelming. How much? What type? What sort of effort is involved to really get your ticker on track?

Well, surprisingly little. A brisk walk can diminish risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure as much as running, according to new American Heart Association findings in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

When researchers studied more than 33,000 runners and more than 15,000 walkers they found that the same energy used for moderate intensity walking and vigorous running led to similar reductions in risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure over the six-year study period.

The researchers assessed walking and running energy expenditure according to distance instead of according to time, and saw that when the same energy was expended, the health benefits of the two forms of exercise were comparable.

When the energy expenditure was compared to self-reported data from study participants, researchers found that running reduced risk for first-time high blood pressure by about 4 percent while brisk walking lowered risk by about 7 percent.

Running also reduced first-time high cholesterol by 4 percent while walking lowered risk by 7 percent.

Lastly, runners and walkers both lowered risk of first-time diabetes by about 12 percent.

Walking may be a more sustainable form of exercise compared to running, said researcher Paul T. Williams, Ph.D., the study’s principal author and staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Life Science Division in Berkeley, California, in a statement, and runners may end up exercising two times as much because they are able to do twice as much in one hour compared to walkers.

The Surgeon General recommends adults in the U.S. engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. Currently, fewer than one-third of American adults engage in that amount. What’s more, at least one third of Americans are obese in the U.S. at present. The American Council on Exercise suggests that a well rounded fitness regimen include aerobic exercise, strength-training, as well as flexibility training. By one estimate, 60 percent of Americans are not happy with the way their body looks. Here’s the kicker. A University of Florida study found that adults who make any effort to do any exercise, regardless of actual fat-burning or strength-building results attained, improved their body image and felt better about themselves. That’s not intimidating. That level of natural-born confidence awaiting you is powerful. Start where you’re at. Start today!

Are You more likely to walk regularly than to run to get exercise?