How much exercise do you need to help prevent heart disease? Do you need an hour breaking a sweat at the gym? Or will a walk around the block suffice?
Most people know that exercise is important to health. The American Heart Association recommends that all adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. That breaks down to 30 minutes at least 5 days of the week. Or, you can break up this activity into 15-minute sessions if that works better for you, fitness experts say.
It's true that exercise such as brisk walking or aerobics may yield great health benefits. But even moderate-intensity activities like walking for pleasure, doing yard work, or dancing may help you lower your risk for heart disease.
How 15 minutes can help
You don't need to be an athlete to enjoy the health benefits of exercise. Short bursts of activity can help your heart, too. And most people should be able to carve out 15 minutes a couple times a day to be active.
Exercise raises the level of HDL cholesterol - the so-called good kind - in the blood. High HDL levels have been shown to help protect against heart disease.
Exercise is also thought to make the endothelial cells that line our arteries healthier. These cells are vital in preventing the clogging and hardening of the arteries.
Always check with your doctor before you start any kind of exercise program, though.
Making quick workouts count
Aerobic exercise is what hearts like best. It helps the heart become stronger and work more efficiently.
You can get an aerobic workout from numerous activities, such as:
- Brisk walking, jogging or running
- Jumping rope
- Using exercise machines like the treadmill, stationary bike, rowing machine, or stair climber
What's most important is simply that you get moving! It can be overwhelming to know where to start if you haven't exercised much before. So talk with your doctor to find a level of activity that is safe for you. In addition to doing what you typically think of as "exercise," you can also get aerobic workout benefits in your daily life. House cleaning or yard work can raise your heart rate. Seasonal recreational sports like ice skating, soccer, and beach volleyball can also help get your heart pumping while you're doing something fun at the same time.
Created on 09/02/2000
Updated on 09/06/2011
- American Heart Association. Ask the experts.
- American Heart Association. Physical activity improves quality of life.