Perhaps the best thing that you can do to improve your cardiovascular health is to get up and get moving. In order to improve your total heart health, the Surgeon General recommends that you get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week1. If those sound like big numbers to fit into a busy week, a closer look at both the benefits of exercise and the ways in which you can fit physical activity into your week will show that the decision to add regular exercise to your life should be a no-brainer.
Exercise and cardiovascular health—that is, good cardiovascular health—go hand in hand. Getting adequate exercise on a regular basis can have a positive effect on just about all of the major risk factors for heart disease. Research has shown that exercise can:
- Reduce blood pressure
- Reduce body weight
- Reduce bad cholesterol (LDL)
- Increase good cholesterol (HDL)
What’s the sum total of these effects? Exercise allows you to live a longer life, plain and simple. According to a six-year study of middle-aged men published in Circulation in 2011, maintaining and improving your fitness levels is associated with a significantly lower risk of death from any cause (15%) and death from cardiovascular disease (19%)2. American Health Association figures describe exercise as possibly lower the risk of heart disease in women by as much as 30-40%3.
Now that the reasons you should exercise are clear, how do you fit those minutes into your week? One easy way is to break it up. If, on a particular day, you can’t find at least a full half-hour of time all at once, break it up into short segments of sustained exercise that you perform throughout the day. It’s as simple as going for a brisk, 10-minute walk after each meal!
If you’re looking for a way to fit vigorous exercise into your schedule, try interval training. Interval training is the practice of repeating short, high-intensity bouts followed by rest periods of moderate intensity. For instance, if you work out on an exercise bike, warm up for about 10 minutes, then pick up the pace and ride at a near-sprint for 30 seconds. Follow this sprint with an easy-to-moderate recovery pace for 90 seconds (two minutes is okay, too, if you need more time). If you’re more of a walker than a biker, try adding small segments of jogging or power walking into your usual walk. Interval training is that easy.
As always, you should consult your doctor before adding regular exercise to your life. But, now that you know the incredible benefits that it can provide, get in touch with your doctor soon so that you can get moving right away and in the way that’s right for you.