Physical activity is a simple yet effective way to prevent heart disease, the leading killer of Americans, as highlighted in a recent health promotion series published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
This series focuses on key behavioral factors like exercise and diet, which have a direct impact on heart health. The goal of the series is to make health promotion a priority by shifting attention from treating disease and focusing on making healthy choices to promote better health.
The recent issue, which highlights the role of exercise, offers strong evidence of the benefits of an active lifestyle and strategies to help get Americans moving.
According to authors, physical inactivity is one of the leading modifiable risk factors for death, right alongside factors like smoking, obesity and diabetes. It’s estimated that inactive adults have up to 30% greater risk for death than those who are active. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t get enough physical activity, putting them at increased risk for things like heart disease, cancer, and even death.
The good news is that all it takes are a few small changes to reduce that risk.
For starters, we should all strive to get as much as exercise as current guidelines recommend. That means at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week for adults, and at least an hour of exercise a day for children.
But if we fall short, authors note that some activity is always better than none at all. Even small amounts of physical activity can provide significant health benefits, especially in adults who are largely sedentary. For many who are just starting out, it may be helpful to slowly incorporate small amounts of physical activity into the day and increase those levels over time. The most important thing, as experts explain, is that we choose activities we can continue over time.
It’s also important, according to authors, that we try to limit our sedentary time. Just as physical activity is good for our health, sitting for extended periods of time can have negative effects. Breaking that sitting time up with short walks or activities helps promote better health.
To help encourage these healthy choices, authors offer a number of suggestions.
On a personal level, individuals should set goals for physical activity and keep track of that progress. Experts also recommend the use of phones and wearable devices, which can help monitor our physical activity throughout the day.
On a community level, experts encourage better education about the importance of physical activity and programs that promote behavior change. They also highlight the need for more public parks, outdoor gyms and more forms of active transportation which encourage a healthier lifestyle.
Together, experts believe these steps will help increase physical activity levels and promote better health. They also hope the recent health promotion series encourages individuals to take control of their health and help prevent heart disease and other chronic diseases.