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Categories > Heart Health > Heart disease: Prevention

Work out for your heart
Step 1: Two-minute walks
Step 2: Five-minute walks
Step 3: 10-minute walks

8 good reasons to get moving
8 good reasons to get moving

  1. It boosts circulation.
  2. It improves your body’s ability to use oxygen and provide the energy needed for movement.
  3. It may help reduce or prevent high blood pressure.
  4. It’s associated with an increase in high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. This is the “good cholesterol” linked to lower risk of heart disease.
  5. It can help you lose weight when used along with a heart-healthy, low-calorie diet.
  6. It can strengthen and tone your muscles, making you feel stronger.
  7. It helps you get a good night’s sleep.
  8. It can improve feelings of well-being because it releases tension and helps you relax.

Driving around mental road blocks
Driving around mental road blocks

When it comes to making excuses for not exercising, creative juices certainly seem to flow. Here are some of the most common excuses:

“I don’t have enough time.” Rearrange your schedule if you must, but whatever you do, make time for exercise. It’s easier than you think if you take a lifestyle approach to fitness.

“I’m too tired to exercise.” If you gave it a shot, you’d quickly find out that exercise actually boosts energy levels. It improves sleep, too.

“There’s no place for me to exercise.” If you have access to a sidewalk, a quiet road, a stairway or a mall, you have a place.

“Exercise is boring.” Listen to an audiocassette while you walk and keep your eye out for interesting plants, birds and architecture. Better yet, invite a friend to join you.

“I had a heart attack, so I should take it easy.” Taking it easy is probably one of the habits that led to your heart attack in the first place. Of course, you should never set out on an exercise routine without consulting your doctor. But as soon as you get the go-ahead, don’t waste another minute!

Only about 33 percent of American adults engage in regular leisure-time physical activity, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. That’s too bad, since physical inactivity is a serious risk factor for coronary heart disease. While exercise alone doesn’t ensure immunity to heart disease, increased physical activity brings about many heart-healthy benefits. (See “8 good reasons to get moving.”)

You don’t have to visit the gym every day or circle the track for an hour to reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and other diseases. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends a “lifestyle approach” to exercise. The goal: accumulating at least 30 minutes’ worth of moderate activity (like brisk walking) over the course of a day, most days of the week. You can ease into the lifestyle approach to physical fitness in just three steps:

Step 1: Two-minute walks

If a 30-minute block of time seems out of the question, how about a dozen or so little walks throughout the day? You can …

  • Take the stairs instead of an elevator.
  • Walk the dog.
  • Sweep or vacuum a couple of rooms.
  • Walk instead of drive to the store.
  • Walk around the golf course instead of using a cart.
  • Mow the lawn (with a walk-behind mower).
  • Park one block farther away from your place of work or a store and walk the rest of the way.
  • Take a walk around the block after each meal.
  • Take a work break by walking around your office building.

Step 2: Five-minute walks

After a few weeks, try extending a few of your short walks to five minutes. You can:

  • Park the car three blocks away from your place of work or the store and walk the rest of the way.
  • Walk the dog an extra two blocks.
  • Walk up an extra flight of stairs—and walk down, too.
  • Walk two blocks or more after each meal.

Step 3: 10-minute walks

After several weeks of five-minute walks, you’ll be ready for the next level. Don’t give up any of your two- or five-minute walks, but try to also…

  • Walk for 10 minutes without stopping along the way.
  • Take a hike.

If you’ve led a couch-potato existence for a long time, it may be hard to think of yourself striding around the block, arms swinging, shoulders back and head held high. But if you make a commitment, it can and will happen. In time, you may decide to pursue other physical activities like swimming or cycling. Eventually, your sit-at-home sedentary ways will become a distant memory.