Middle aged people who perform a sufficient amount of exercise each week can reduce the risk of heart problems, according to new research.
The findings also show it is never too late to take part, with people who make the switch in their 40s and 50s still reaping the benefits.
Published in the journal Circulation, the study of 4,000 people revealed that those who did the recommended 2.5 hours of exercise a week had lower levels of inflammatory markers in their blood.
Experts say that the required 2.5 hours of moderate activity per week need not be hard toil in the gym, stating it can easily be achieved going on brisk walks or gardening.
Lower levels of inflammation were also found in people who had only started doing the recommended exercise when they were well into their 40s, compared to those who said they never did enough exercise.
Researchers also took factors such as obesity and smoking into consideration and found the findings remained unchanged.
However, more work is needed as the study only looked at markers linked to heart problems and not heart disease itself.
Another issue was the fact that it relied on people accurately reporting how much exercise they did - something which tends to get overestimated.
Lead researcher Dr Mark Hamer from UCL said: “We should be encouraging more people to get active - for example, walking instead of taking the bus. You can gain health benefits from moderate activity at any time in your life.”
British Heart Foundation senior cardiac nurse Maureen Talbot said: “Donning gardening gloves, or picking up a paint brush, can still go a long way to help look after heart health, as even gentle exercise can have a big impact on how well the heart ages.
“This research highlights the positive impact changing exercise habits can have on the future of heart health – and that it’s never too late.”