Physical inactivity is a major health concern that contributes to some of our nation’s leading causes of death, including heart disease and stroke.
It also increases risk for obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
Fortunately, there is something we can do about this.
We know exercise is good for the heart, but one might wonder how much and what kinds of exercise are best. For overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends:
n At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week for a total of 150 minutes, or
n At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least three days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, and
n Moderate to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least two days per week for additional health benefits.
If you are trying to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, the recommendation increases to 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity three or four times per week.
This may seem overwhelming, especially if you are not accustomed to exercising. Rule of thumb is to “start low and go slow” and remember that any activity is better than no activity.
Simple things like walking and climbing stairs bring heart health benefits, as do jogging, swimming or biking.
I recommend walking for anyone getting started on an exercise routine. For most people, walking is easy, safe and can be one of the most effective forms of exercise to achieve heart health.
If you are having trouble getting started, try multi-tasking by taking the dog, kids or grandkids for a walk. You can walk in the mall and window shop or take your cell phone on a walk and catch up on calls. I also find yoga to be extremely helpful.
Although recent reports cite a study in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings that indicate excessive exercise — defined as more than 450 minutes per week of high-intensity activity — might be bad for heart health, most of us do not exercise to this degree.
The best way to ensure your exercise routine is right for you is to check in with your primary care provider or cardiologist.