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Get the workout your heart needs

aerobic dancingYou probably already know that being physically active is good for you. It can help protect you from heart disease, while being inactive greatly increases your risk of developing heart disease. A well-rounded exercise regimen includes:

  • Aerobic activity, which uses large muscle groups and increases oxygen intake.
  • Strength training, also called resistance training, which strengthens, firms and tones muscles and improves bone strength, balance and coordination.
  • Flexibility exercises, which stretch and lengthen muscles to improve joint flexibility.

All three types of exercise are important; however, aerobic activities are the ones that provide the greatest benefit for the heart.

How hard should your heart work?
Generally, the more vigorously you engage in an activity, and the longer you spend doing it, the more health benefits you will receive. Vigorous activity can be a good workout and burn more calories, helping you lose or maintain your weight. However, moderate exercise is also effective at helping to prevent heart disease. Engaging in moderate activity for 30 minutes on most, and preferably all, days of the week can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Before starting an exercise program, discuss the types of activities that may be appropriate for you with your doctor. And whether you're just beginning to exercise or stepping up your workout, it's important to start small and work up gradually.

Examples of vigorous and moderate activities

Vigorous

  • Aerobic dancing
  • Basketball
  • Bicycling faster than 10 mph
  • Hiking uphill
  • Jogging/running at least 5 mph
  • Jumping rope
  • Soccer
  • Tennis (singles)
  • Walking briskly (4.5 mph)
  • Yard work (heavy)

Moderate

  • Bicycling less than 10 mph
  • Dancing
  • Gardening
  • Golf (on foot)
  • Hiking on flat ground
  • Softball
  • Swimming (recreational)
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Walking moderately (3.5 mph)
  • Yard work (light)