Maintaining an Active Lifestyle for Your Heart

By Andrew Grahovec with Contributions from Alexander Brook, PT, DPT for ATI Physical Therapy

Physical activity and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle is important for your overall health – but just how important is it? Being physically active can reduce the risk of serious noncommunicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and cancer. It’s important to understand why physical activity is important for your heart, how much you need on a weekly basis and what types you can perform at home or at the gym.

How important is physical activity?

A 2016 meta-analysis in the Journal of American Heart Association (JAHA) found that by increasing physical activity by 11.25 MET (metabolic equivalent – how much energy you’re expending) hours a week, the risk of cardiovascular mortality and the incidence of diabetes mellitus is reduced 23 and 26 percent, respectively. The World Journal of Cardiology (WJC) reports that physical activity can also slow the progression, lessen the impact and prevent recurrence of heart diseases. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) recognizes the association between physical activity and reduction of osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and better cognitive functioning. Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., but it can also be prevented or treated with physical activity.

How much physical activity do you need?

The goal of 11.25 hours a week can be broken down to a recommended 150 minutes a week (30 minutes a day for five days) of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes a week of high intensity activity. Additional benefits can be seen with an increase up to 300 minutes a week. While these are the recommended values, any activity is better than no activity and we all must start somewhere. Gradual, small increases in activity can lead to major health benefits.

What types of physical activities can you perform?

Prior to beginning any workout plan, talk with your doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough to start a workout program. Any good workout program should consist of a warm up, the exercise and a cool down. Cardio isn’t the only way to get a good workout or reach your physical activity goal – strength training is an integral part of any good routine.

For your warm up, perform at least five minutes of low-level aerobic activities such as light walking or biking and dynamic stretching before going into your workout. After your workout, make sure to cool down for five to 10 minutes with a gradual decrease in activity and add in some stretching to stay loose. Here are some great examples of different activities you can perform for your workout:

Moderate Intensity

  • Brisk walking on the treadmill or track
  • Water aerobics
  • Bicycling (outside or stationary) less than 10 mph
  • Gardening
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Golf

Vigorous Intensity

  • Jogging/running
  • Swimming laps
  • Hiking
  • Lifting weights
  • Jumping rope
  • Competitive/organized sports

While this is in no way a full or comprehensive list, it gives you an easy way to start increasing your activity levels and becoming a healthier you.

Are aches and pains getting in the way of your daily activities or from starting an exercise program?

Stop by your nearest ATI Physical Therapy clinic for a complimentary screening and get back to doing you. Our experts will listen to your concerns, evaluate your injury and create a safe and effective plan to help you reach your goals and live a healthy, active lifestyle.

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