Doctors often get asked “what is the best exercise for your heart”.
The answer is any kind of moderate aerobic exercise is probably the best – which means walking or swimming or playing a sport like tennis. If you are fit and younger you can do a lot more, if you have not been exercising for a while think more long term to reduce minor injuries that can dampen the enthusiasm and can set you back weeks or months.
When we think about the word exercise, we perhaps tend to think of sweating in special workout clothes trying to reach a target heart rate or a certain number of repetitions. We imagine an involved process that requires answers to questions like “where will I shower afterwards?”, “where will I keep a change of clothes?”, and “when can I break away from my busy schedule to do this?” The last question is the excuse we seem to use most, a lack of time. It seems you don’t need that much time.
33 published studies on exercise and the risk of coronary heart disease were examined to find out “How much exercise is required in order to be helpful to your heart?” Exercise makes healthier hearts and a lower risk of heart attack. Previously the studies seemed to indicate that people needed to exercise a fairly large amount to enjoy a heart benefit. Could those getting less exercise still receive some benefit?
By walking 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity physical activity coronary heart disease risk was lowered by 14% compared to those that did not exercise at all. At 300 minutes per week , the risk of heart disease was 20% lower than non-exercisers. The good news showed that those that had some moderate physical exertion, but less than 150 minutes a week, still had significantly lower chance of coronary heart disease than people that did not exercise at all.
How much exercise was “enough”? The study authors state that “some physical activity is better than none” and “additional benefits occur with more physical activity.”
Nothing about this research has changed what we already knew about exercise, the more you can get, the better it is for your heart. What is new is that small amounts of exercise seems helpful, too.
So don’t think of exercise as a discrete and laborious endeavor, with planning, scheduling, and execution, it is easy to become discouraged and drop the entire process. Any kind of physical activity is the goal, in whatever form it can take. Park away from the office. Find ideas for reasons to take the stairs several times a day or even leave the office. Just get moving. Your heart will be healthier for it.