How You Can Exercise to Help Prevent Heart Disease

Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It helps cut your chances of getting heart disease. It's good for your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, energy level, and mood, too.

If you're not active now, check in with your doctor before you start. She’ll let you know what you can do safely.

If you take any prescription medicines, ask her if you need to adjust them when you start exercising.

How Often and How Long Should I Exercise?

If you're not active now, gradually work up to an aerobic session of about 20 to 30 minutes, at least three or four times a week.

While the more exercise you can do, the better, any amount is good for you.

What Type of Exercise Should I Do?

Anything that makes your heart beat a bit faster counts.

Think about what you need. For instance, if you're looking for something easy on your joints, consider walking and swimming.

Don’t forget to think about what would be fun, too. Maybe you could do something you used to do or something you've always wanted to try.

What’s convenient for you is important, too. Do you need an at-home workout? Would you go to a gym if you joined? How about joining a recreational sports team, hiking group, or dance class? You're more likely to stick with it if you enjoy it.

What to Do In Every Workout

Each exercise session should include a warm-up, conditioning phase, and a cool down.

Warm-up: Go easy for a few minutes as your body gets used to what you're asking it to do.

Conditioning: This is the main part of your workout.

Cool down: You're transitioning out of your workout. Don’t sit, stand still, or lie down right after exercise, or you may feel dizzy or lightheaded or have heart palpitations (fluttering in your chest). The best cool-down is to ease up on the intensity of your activity.

How Hard Should I Work?

A cardio workout is moderate if you can talk but not sing. You're exercising vigorously if you can't say more than a few words without taking a breath.

Ask your doctor if you should limit the intensity of your exercise. It's much better to start out taking it easier and work up to more challenging workouts. That’ll help prevent injury.

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How Can I Stick With It?

  • Ban boredom. Pick a variety of activities that you like. Don't do the same thing over and over.
  • Make playlists. Use music to keep you entertained.
  • Commit. You won't always feel like it, and you'll find all sorts of excuses not to do it. You'll need to make a decision ahead of time and ignore that impulse and exercise anyway.
  • Socialize. Working out is more fun if you have a friend with you.
  • Stay within your budget. Don’t buy expensive equipment or health club memberships unless you know you’ll use them.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on October 26, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

American Heart Association.

CDC: "Measuring Physical Activity Intensity."

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