Regular exercise reduces the risk of many forms of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, stroke, peripheral artery disease and coronary heart disease.
In addition to the benefits for your heart health, exercise:
Optimally, you should aim for at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity activity plus two sessions of muscle strength training per week, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. For example, you could take a brisk 30-minute walk at least five times a week and do two sessions of weight lifting or Pilates. What’s moderate intensity? Use the talking—or breath—test: If you can easily carry on a conversation with full sentences, you’re not exerting enough effort.
Try increasing the intensity of your activity. If you’re walking, quicken your pace. If you’re doing a cardio workout, add some jumps. For strengthening, push yourself by adding more weight or more repetitions. Alternatively, you can aim for 75 minutes of high-intensity activity per week, plus two sessions of muscle strength training. Examples are running, high-impact aerobics and high-intensity interval training, called HIIT. When doing high-intensity exercise, you should be breathing hard such that you can only say a few words at a time.
If you’re new to exercise, it’s OK to start slowly with smaller amounts of time. Begin with shorter—but regular—sessions and work your way up. Remember, any amount of physical activity is better than none at all. If you have heart disease or another heart condition, check with your health care team before starting or intensifying your activities.