Your heart is the most important muscle in your body. As with any muscle, if you don’t work it, you run the risk of the muscle not performing to the best of its ability. This could lead to significant heart problems including death. Think of it this way, regular physical activity helps protect against a first heart attack, helps patients recover from heart surgery and reduces the risk of having another heart attack.
Inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease. At least a third of all heart disease deaths are due to a sedentary lifestyle. Being inactive is as potentially harmful as cigarette smoking, high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol. In addition to heart disease, inactivity raises your risk of developing diabetes, obesity, certain types of cancer, and anxiety and depression; it reduces your skeletal muscle mass.
Sooner or later your health will deteriorate if you don’t move more. Couch potatoes miss out on a lot of good living that an active lifestyle offers. Think of the things you love to do and imagine if you couldn’t participate because of poor health. Travel, playing with your grandkids or pets, hunting or playing sports, an all-day shopping trip, throwing a family barbeque – you don’t want to miss a moment of the good life. The choice is yours.
60 percent of Americans report they are physically inactive. Only about 22 percent of Americans report regular, sustained physical activity (activity of any intensity lasting 30 minutes or more 5 times a week). About 15 percent of Americans report vigorous activity (activity intense enough to make you breathe harder and your heart beat faster for at least 20 minutes, 3 times a week).
Physical inactivity is more prevalent among women, Blacks and Hispanics, older adults and the less affluent. People with less than a high school education are also more likely to be sedentary. Also, those who are physically disabled, people with injuries that limit movement, adolescents and adults who are overweight are more likely to have a sedentary lifestyle.
If you can exercise, you might wonder how much do you need.
Here’s what the experts recommend:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that every adult get:
- Moderate-intensity aerobic (cardio) activity for 150 minutes every week (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week); or vigorous-intensity cardio physical activity for 75 minutes each week, and
- Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)
The American Heart Association recommends 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise 3-4 times per week.
Moderate-intensity activities include pleasure walking, climbing stairs, gardening, yard work, moderate-to-heavy housework, dancing and home exercise.
Vigorous aerobic activities include brisk walking, running, swimming, bicycling, roller skating and jumping rope. This level of activity is best for improving heart and lung fitness.
One way to incorporate more movement into your day is to wear a pedometer and work up to at least 10,000 steps per day. Start by adding 1,000 steps each week to your current daily total until you work up to 10,000.
Always talk with your doctor before you start a new exercise plan. Ask about how much and what kinds of physical activity are safe for you.
Editor’s note: Dr. Chad Rodgers is an Arkansas pediatrician and is the Chief Medical Officer for the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care. The opinions expressed are those of the author. You can hear more from Dr. Rodgers in the video below.