- Americans are less physically active and consume more calories than ever before, adding to the growing obesity epidemic.
- Even if you or your family members have no other risk factors, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, not getting enough physical activity greatly increases your chances of getting heart disease.
- People who are physically active for about seven hours a week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying early than those who are active for less than 30 minutes a week.
Getting regular exercise, such as walking, jogging, swimming and gardening/yard work, improves heart function and lowers both blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. In fact, people who maintain an active lifestyle have a significantly lower risk of developing heart disease than those who do not. Still, despite the clear heart health benefits, many adults—especially women and older adults—are inactive (sedentary), engaging in no physical activity during their free time.
Now's the Time
There are plenty of excuses for not exercising. Juggling the ever-increasing demands of work, household chores and family can make it difficult to carve out time. But the good news is you only need 30 minutes of moderate-intensity level physical activity five days of the week to help protect your heart. This means you should do activities that get your heart pumping and make you breathe harder for the entire 30 minutes. Importantly, you can improve your health by breaking this into shorter 10-minute spurts throughout the day, but be sure it is a full 10 minutes. And don't forget, adults and children of all ages can benefit from exercise.
In addition to protecting and strengthening your heart, physical activity can reenergize you, allowing you to accomplish more throughout the day. Need more convincing? Exercise also:
- Relieves stress and anxiety
- Controls your weight by burning calories and increasing your metabolism
- Improves sleep
- Reduces pain symptoms
- Strengthens bones and muscles, helping prevent osteoporosis later in life
- Reduces the risk of diabetes, colon cancer and other conditions
So, what are you waiting for? Make the time and get moving. Exercise can be fun, and you'll also be helping your loved ones adopt healthful habits to stay fit and healthy for life.
Get Moving to Improve Heart Health
Encourage your family to sit down together and share individual and family exercise goals, relating to such things as weight loss and conditioning. By talking about your plans and asking for support from others, you'll be more likely to follow through with your exercise program.
Set a good example by advocating for and adopting health-promoting habits, and your kids will follow. Here are some tips:
- Be physically active every day.
- Limit inactive pastimes, such as watching television, to no more than two hours a day.
- Report back on successes and changes in how you look and feel.
- Make sure your children get enough physical activity. If they aren't active through school or organized sports, help them find ways to get moving after school, such as riding bikes, shooting hoops, doing yard work or playing with friends.
- Go for a walk before or after dinner instead of watching television.
- Divvy up household chores that burn calories, such as raking leaves, scrubbing the floors and vacuuming.
- Encourage participation in sports and join a recreational team yourself.
- Plan outings and vacations that allow your family to stay active, such as skiing, hiking, bicycling, sightseeing on foot or playing at a local park.
- Think of other ways to build exercise into your daily routine. Park the car on the other side of the office or grocery store parking lot. Use the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
Set yourself up for success by:
- Establishing realistic expectations and adjusting goals as needed
- Choosing activities that everyone enjoys
- Varying exercise routines and outings
- Making sure not to overdo it
- Agreeing on a weekly schedule for fun physical activity
- Rewarding yourself and your family for sticking with it
Keep in mind, the intensity of your workout is also important. Start slowly and gradually push yourself harder. You should feel your heart rate increase and you should break a sweat.
Combine stretching and resistance training with aerobic activities. Weight-bearing exercise is important for building strong bones and can help prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures later in life. It also improves balance and increases muscle strength and mass. Balance exercises (standing on one foot, walking heel-to-toe) are fun and help you practice balance and build leg muscles, which can help guard against falls and injury.
Talk to Your Health Care Provider
If you or your children have any existing health problems like asthma or diabetes or have been inactive, talk with your health care provider before taking part in any strenuous activity.
Here are some questions you may want to ask:
- How does exercise strengthen my heart?
- How much exercise should I/my children be getting?
- What kinds of activities can we do as a family to get a moderate-intensity workout?
- At what age does your metabolism slow? How does physical activity counteract this?
- Why are resistance and balance exercises so important?
© 2013. National Women's Health Resource Center, Inc. All rights reserved. All content provided in this guide is for information purposes only. Any information herein relating to specific medical conditions, preventive care and/or healthy lifestyles does not suggest individual diagnosis or treatment and is not a substitute for medical attention.Back to Heart & Home: Heart Health Guide Home Page
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