An active heart is a healthy heart. Movement and routine exercise are essential to preventing and managing cardiovascular issues.
The heart is a muscle that pumps blood to the body. When exercised, it can work more efficiently. This makes your heart stronger and causes less strain on arteries and blood vessels.
The leading cause of death in the country is heart disease, and its top risk factors are high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Staying active helps reduce these levels. Adults who routinely exercise have lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
How Much Exercise Do I Need?
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gives recommendations on the amount of physical activity needed for overall health and well-being. Most adults should aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity. Exercising throughout the week with a variety of activities also offers health benefits.
Moderate-Intensity Aerobic Activity
This type of activity and intensity will increase your heart rate and breathing, but you will still be able to talk while exercising. Examples include:
- Biking, slower than 10 miles per hour
- Swimming (low-impact activity)
- Walking briskly (low-impact activity)
- Yoga, vinyasa or power
Vigorous-Intensity Aerobic Activity
While taking part in a higher-intensity workout, you likely cannot say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. Examples include:
- Biking, faster than 10 miles per hour
- Swimming laps
- Jumping rope
- Exercise classes like kickboxing
Tracking your heart rate levels can be an effective tool in determining the intensity of your workout. Start by knowing your resting heart rate level, or the number of times your heart beats per minute when your body is at rest. This can be easily determined with a wearable activity tracker. The American Heart Association provides a chart on its website with target heart rate zones by age when taking part in moderate or vigorous physical activity.
In addition to a combination of moderate and vigorous intense activities, it is beneficial to incorporate strengthening and stretching into your workout. Muscle strengthening activities that use weights and resistance bands, which make your muscles work harder than usual, are recommended for adults at least two days a week.
How Do I Stay Motivated with an Exercise Routine?
The American Heart Association reports that only about one in five adults and teens get enough exercise to maintain good health. Most know that physical activity is important, but a lack of motivation and busy schedules can get in the way. Remember that some exercise is better than none. Start with small lifestyle changes that can eventually lead to long-term success.
Here are a few tips as you begin to add more physical activity to your week:
- Set personal goals that are realistic and attainable. If you want to run a 5K, start with brisk walking and jogging that will lead to running.
- Do activities that you find enjoyable, such as dancing or hiking.
- Invite friends to join you or share your goals with a friend who can keep you accountable.
- Schedule time on your calendar for a workout. This could be a routine 30-minute break each day, or shorter 10-minute intervals that take place three times a day.
- Track your physical activity through an app or a calendar so you can look back at your success.
The most important part is to remember to move your body more. Reducing the amount of time that you are sitting offers health benefits for your heart. As you move toward a more active lifestyle, be sure to share your exercise goals and plans with your health care team.