30 Minutes Per Day, 5 Days Per Week
Physical activity, particularly aerobic exercise, is important to heart health. Aerobic exercise is any activity that elevates your heart rate and gets your blood pumping. “Aerobic” literally means “with oxygen” because your breathing controls the amount of oxygen delivered to your muscles, which helps them move and burn fuel. Brisk walking, jumping rope, swimming, and running are all examples of aerobic exercises.
“Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death among all Americans over the age of 25,” says Dr. Ali Mortazavi, chief of Cardiology at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. “There are lifestyle choices you can make, like exercising regularly, that can substantially reduce your risk for heart disease,” he explained.
Just 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week can help lower your risk of heart disease. If 30 minutes most days of the week seems like too much for your busy schedule, break it into two 15-minute sessions a day.
In addition to cardiovascular conditioning, aerobic exercise delivers several other heart-healthy benefits:
- Lowering blood pressure. When your heart is made stronger by regular exercise, it can pump blood more effectively, which decreases the force on your arteries, reducing both your systolic and diastolic readings.
- Decreasing LDL or “bad cholesterol” while increasing HDL or “good cholesterol.” When you’re physically active, you get rid of harmful cholesterol while increasing the amount of beneficial cholesterol, which can protect you from developing heart disease.
- Managing blood sugar more effectively. If you have Type 2 diabetes or are at risk of developing it, exercise increases insulin sensitivity. When your muscles contract during physical activity, your cells can use glucose for energy.
- Maintaining weight or helping with weight loss efforts. No matter if you’re trying to maintain your weight or lose a few pounds, aerobic exercise helps burn calories. Keeping excess weight off is beneficial to your heart in so many ways, helping you prevent strain on the heart and chronic conditions that over time weaken the heart.
- Decreasing your resting heart rate. Because exercise strengthens your heart muscle, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard while at rest. This reduces your resting heart rate to fewer heartbeats per minute.