22 Fast Facts About Exercise and Your Heart
You may think you know all there is to know about your heart and exercise. But myths abound about how much — and what kind of — physical activity you need. Here, Cardiac Rehabilitation Program Director Erik Van Iterson, PhD, shares 22 key facts about heart-healthy exercise:
- Physical activity is an important way to prevent heart disease – the nation’s No. 1 killer — and stroke, the nation’s No. 5 killer.
- Do at least 2.5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity (think brisk walking), spread across the entire week, to improve your cardiovascular health.
- Moderate-intensity activity gets your heart beating faster, causes you to break a sweat and makes you breathe harder. (Hint: You should be able to talk but not sing.)
- You don’t have to do the activity all at once. Spread the time over the course of your day if needed — it all counts!
- Try dividing your exercise into two or three mini-segments of 10 to 15 minutes per day — you will still experience benefits.
- Doing more than 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week can provide extra health benefits.
- Most people are safe doing activity that requires moderate effort.
- If time is an issue, and you’re able to, do 75 minutes or more of vigorous activity (at least at a jogging pace) each week to improve your cardiovascular health. (That’s equal to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.)
- You’ll enjoy added health benefits by engaging in whole body muscle-strengthening physical activity for at least two days per week.
- The heart-healthy benefits of physical activity are far greater than your chances of getting hurt.
- All types of physical activity help your heart health. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk briskly around the mall, or take a dance class.
- The simplest change you can make to improve your heart health is to replace sedentary behavior with lighter-intensity activities like walking.
- People of all types, shapes, sizes and abilities can benefit from being physically active.
- If you haven’t been active for a while, start at a comfortable pace. Gradually increase your exercise intensity and duration as your body adapts to regular activity. Choose activities that are appropriate for you right now.
- Doing some physical activity is better for your heart than doing nothing. But the more physical activity you do, the more benefit you gain.
- If you have heart disease, you should exercise just as much as someone who does not have heart disease. But understand the risks; some activities may not be appropriate for you right now.
- Talk with your doctor about the types and amounts of physical activity that are right for you if you have heart disease.
- You are more likely to develop heart disease, have high blood pressure, have high blood cholesterol or have a stroke when you’re not regularly physically active.
- You don’t need a stress test before starting an exercise program just because your cholesterol is high.
- If you are eligible based on your medical history, enroll in cardiac rehabilitation. Completing this therapy can reduce the death rate from heart disease by 26 to 31 percent.
- Exercise training, education and counseling are all part of cardiac rehabilitation, and can help improve your heart health.
- To help optimize the safety and fitness benefits of exercise, use a heart rate monitor to ensure that you attain your heart rate ranges when exercising at home.