Updated: Oct 19, 2021
Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. However, there are ways you can lower your risk of heart disease or stroke. Make physical activity routine. Physical activity is one of the best ways to help your heart.
Being active can:
Protect your heart (even if you have heart disease)
Improve blood flow
Lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Give you more stamina and ability to cope with stress
If you’re inactive, you’re nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease than if you’re active. As little as 60 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic (lower intensity) activity helps your heart. "For major health benefits, aim for at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) a week. Or go for 75 minutes a week of more vigorous activity such as playing basketball, running, or jumping rope, which gives the same benefits." According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), "The more activity means a bigger boost to your health."
Set a goal of your target activity time and then make a plan on how to achieve that each week. For example, 30 minutes of physical activity, five times a week, is one option if you’re aiming for 150 minutes a week. Or if you have trouble finding large blocks of time for activity, complete smaller chunks a few times a day.
Only have 10 minutes? Consider:
Walking briskly for 5 minutes, turning around and walking back
Dancing (standing or seated) to three songs
Getting off your bus early and walking the last stretch
You’ll know you’re moving enough to help your heart if
Your heart is beating faster
You’re breathing harder
You break a sweat
If you struggle with finding motivation to get moving ask a friend or family member to join you in your challenge. Discuss your goals with them. Ask them to attend a fitness class or go for a walk with you. Commit to a schedule and keep each other accountable so you don't miss a day or workout. Choose an activity that you enjoy. If you like being outdoors try a hiking trail or biking. Play games or sports with your kids or grandkids. Find different places to walk in your area including parks or a local outdoor track. Think of your physical activity time as your time to reset and refresh your mind and body. Be creative with working fitness time into your daily routine. During commercials or while watching TV do strength exercises, during your lunch break take a walk, or plan a physical activity before sitting down to rest for the evening.
"In addition to aerobic activity, take time to strengthen your muscles. Try to work your leg, hip, back, chest, abdomen, shoulder, and arm muscles. Aim to do muscle strengthening twice a week in addition to your aerobic activities, " recommends heartturth.gov. "Certain physical activities are safe for most people. If you have a chronic health condition such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, or other symptoms, talk with your doctor first. Learn more about the risks of physical activity for certain groups on the NHLBI website." If you are not able to do the physical activities as you normally do, please contact your physician to see if a referral for therapy at Memorial Hospital's Therapy & Sports Rehab Center might be helpful.