Heart Disease Protection Exercise

Putting your body into motion may be one of the best choices you can make to protect your cardiovascular health. The benefits of exercise are twofold. First, even a moderate exercise program can improve oxygen intake, muscular strength, lung function, heart function and heart rate. Second, exercise helps to control or negate some of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, like smoking, high blood pressure and excess weight.

The Heart Benefits of Exercise

Any form of exercise is positive, but aerobic exercise that involves the continuous use of the large muscles in your arms and legs is especially beneficial for your cardiovascular health. Aerobic exercise increases your endurance by strengthening your heart and lungs as well as the muscles of your arms and legs. The more exercise you do, the more you’re able to do.

Aerobic activities include walking, jogging, dancing, jumping rope or any other form of continuous motion that engages the large muscles and raises the heart rate. Exercise of this kind for about 30 minutes a day, most days of the week, is recommended. Exercise can be broken up into ten or fifteen minute sessions and still provide the same benefits.

Your goal should be to maintain 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate during your aerobic exercise sessions. You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220.

Controlling Cardiovascular Health Risks

If you currently fall into a high-risk category for heart disease or stroke, an exercise program may help mitigate some of that risk.

Exercise may decrease insulin requirements in people with diabetes. Those who don’t have diabetes are less likely to develop the condition if they maintain a lower body weight.

Exercise can reduce high blood pressure and raise the amount of amount of HDL or good cholesterol in your blood. Low levels of HDL have been linked to coronary artery disease.

The benefits of exercise may even reduce smoking risk. The American Heart Association has determined that smokers who engage in regular physical activity are more likely to cut back or quit smoking altogether (American Heart Association, 2010).

Exercise and Heart Health: Tips for Getting Started

As you begin your exercise program, be reasonable and stay attuned to your body’s signals as you progress. Overestimating your abilities at the outset or setting unrealistic goals may decrease the pleasure you derive from exercise and derail your program. However, goals can help you stay motivated. Ideally, you should exercise enough to challenge yourself and feel good at the end of each session. You are the best judge of your own limits.

Your exercise program should:

  • Be consistent: Whatever you do, try to do it most days of the week.
  • Feel good: At the end of each session, your mood should be positive and your body should feel tired, but not painfully battered.
  • Raise your heart rate: Exercise should bring you to at least 50 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Consult your doctor before you begin an exercise program.


American Heart Association. (2010). Physical activity. Retrieved November 8, 2010, from http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4563

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Top ten reasons to get physical. Retrieved November 8, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/aerobic-exercise/EP00002

The Franklin Institute. (2010). Healthy hearts: Physical exercise. Retrieved November 8, 2010, from http://www.fi.edu/learn/heart/healthy/exercise.html