Exercise for a Healthier Heart

Man and woman outdoors walking in comfortable clothes.

You may wonder how you can improve the health of your heart. If you’re thinking about exercise, you’re on the right track. You don’t need to become an athlete, but you do need a certain amount of brisk exercise to help strengthen your heart. If you have been diagnosed with a heart condition, your doctor may recommend exercise to help stabilize your condition. To help make exercise a habit, choose safe, fun activities.

Be sure to check with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program.

Why exercise?

Exercising regularly offers many healthy rewards. It can help you do all of the following:

  • Improve your blood cholesterol level to help prevent further heart trouble

  • Lower your blood pressure to help prevent a stroke or heart attack

  • Control diabetes, or reduce your risk of getting this disease

  • Improve your heart and lung function

  • Reach and maintain a healthy weight

  • Make your muscles stronger and more limber so you can stay active

  • Prevent falls and fractures by slowing the loss of bone mass (osteoporosis)

  • Manage stress better

  • Reduce your blood pressure

  • Improve your sense of self and your body image

Exercise tips

Ease into your routine. Set small goals. Then build on them.

Exercise on most days. Aim for a total of 150 or more minutes of moderate to  vigorous intensity activity each week. Consider 40 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week. For best results, activity should last for 40 minutes on average. It is OK to work up to the 40 minute period over time. Examples of moderate-intensity activity is walking 1 mile in 15 minutes or 30 to 45 minutes of yard work.

Step up your daily activity level. Along with your exercise program, try being more active throughout the day. Walk instead of drive. Do more household tasks or yard work.

Choose one or more activities you enjoy. Walking is one of the easiest things you can do. You can also try swimming, riding a bike, dancing, or taking an exercise class.

Stop exercising and call your doctor if you:

  • Have chest pain or feel dizzy or lightheaded

  • Feel burning, tightness, pressure, or heaviness in your chest, neck, shoulders, back, or arms

  • Have unusual shortness of breath

  • Have increased joint or muscle pain

  • Have palpitations or an irregular heartbeat