Regular physical activity is a powerful way to reduce your risk of heart disease. Physical activity directly helps prevent heart problems.
Staying active also helps prevent and control high blood pressure, keep cholesterol levels healthy, and prevent and control diabetes.
Plus, regular physical activity is a great way to help take off extra pounds—and keep them off.
Regular physical activity has a host of other health benefits. It may help prevent cancers of the breast, uterus, and colon.
Staying active also strengthens the lungs, tones the muscles, keeps the joints in good condition, improves balance, and may slow bone loss.
It also helps many people sleep better, feel less depressed, cope better with stress and anxiety, and generally feel more relaxed and energetic.
You can benefit from physical activity at any age. In fact, staying active can help prevent, delay, or improve many age-related health problems.
As you grow older, weight-bearing activities can be particularly helpful for strengthening bones and muscles, improving balance, and lowering the risk for serious falls.
Good weight-bearing activities include carrying groceries, walking, jogging, and lifting weights. (Start with 1- to 3-pound hand weights and gradually progress to heavier weights.)
Activities that promote balance and flexibility are also important. Practices such as T’ai Chi and yoga can improve both balance and flexibility and can be done alternately with heart healthy physical activities.
Check with your health insurance plan, local recreation center, YWCA or YMCA, or adult education program for low-cost classes in your area.
A Little Activity Goes a Long Way
The good news is that to reap benefits from physical activity, you don’t have to run a marathon—or anything close to it.
To reduce the risk of disease, you only need to do about 30 minutes of moderate- intensity physical activity on most, and preferably all, days of the week.
If you’re trying to manage your weight and prevent gradual, unhealthy weight gain, try to boost that level to approximately 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity on most days of the week.
Brisk walking (3 to 4 miles per hour) is an easy way to help keep your heart healthy. One study, for example, showed that regular, brisk walking reduced the risk of heart attack by the same amount as more vigorous exercise, such as jogging.
To make physical activity a pleasure rather than a chore, choose activities you enjoy. Ride a bike. Go hiking. Dance. Play ball. Swim.
Keep doing physical tasks around the house and yard. Rake leaves. Climb stairs. Mulch your garden. Paint a room.
You can do an activity for 30 minutes at one time, or choose shorter periods of at least 10 minutes each.
For example, you could spend 10 minutes walking on your lunch break, another 10 minutes raking leaves in the backyard, and another 10 minutes lifting weights.
The important thing is to total about 30 minutes of activity each day. (To avoid weight gain, try to total about 60 minutes per day.)