Exercise for Heart Health

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of heart-pumping exercise for heart health, but most of us aren’t getting that. However, 150 minutes is less than 22 minutes each day, and this activity can improve your overall health, prevent disease (like heart disease!), and improve quality of life.

When you’re trying to add exercise into your life and thinking about the 150 minutes each week, you’ll also want to think about the type of exercise. The American Heart Association recommends that time be spent doing “moderate-intensity aerobic activity.” Instead of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, you could also do 75 minutes each week of vigorous activity.

Activity is anything where you’re moving your body and burning calories. When the AHA refers to aerobic, also referred to as “cardio,” they mean exercise that gets your heart rate up and improves your heart health. Moderate intensity will cause your heart to beat faster than normal, while still allowing you to talk. Think walking fast, water aerobics, dancing, gardening, etc. Vigorous activity will be harder, and you may be out of breath. Think running, swimming laps, jumping rope, hiking uphill, etc.

If even 150 minutes a week seems overwhelming to you, that’s okay. You just need to start somewhere. If you’re struggling with mobility and/or have chronic conditions, talk to your doctor about where a good starting place is for you. Even just sitting less can have a big impact. The bottom line is exercise has lots of benefits:

  • Lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and Alzheimer’s, several types of cancer, and some complications of pregnancy
  • Better sleep
  • Improved memory, attention and processing speed
  • Less weight gain, obesity, and related chronic health conditions
  • Better bone health and balance, with less risk of injury from falls
  • Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Better quality of life and sense of overall well-being