Exercise is b­­­eneficial to our health, but many people assume it’s a time-consuming or exhaustive commitment. In reality, 30 minutes of daily activity is all it really takes. You can even break up the time into smaller increments if you don’t have a solid half hour or more to dedicate to exercise.

Improving Heart Health with Activity

According to the American Heart Association, each hour of exercise can increase your life expectancy by two hours. That could add up to two extra years for adults who begin exercising even as late as middle age.

Physically active people also save hundreds of dollars per year on healthcare costs. A small investment of your time and effort can add to your wallet and your life.

“Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women, but in most cases it can be completely prevented,” said Matt Rountree, Sr. Director of Communications for the American Heart Association KY-IN. “Getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily plays a significant factor in reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.”

Increased activity can: 

  • Decrease the incidence of falls and improve balance and coordination
  • Prevent bone loss, reducing the risk of fractures
  • Reduce the incidence of illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis
  • Improve sleep quality and decrease depression
  • Reduce agitation in patients with Alzheimer’s disease

“Thirty minutes or more of steady exercise is ideal, but even 10 minutes of exercise three times a day will help,” says Padma Dasari, MD, physician at Kindred Hospital Northeast – Stoughton. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • You may need to exercise more than this to lose significant weight or train for a sport or a race. Train by building up your workouts gradually over time to reduce your risk of injury and adding stress to your heart.
  • Exercise helps you slowly but surely. It may take six weeks or more to feel or see a difference.
  • Exercise should be a habit like eating or sleeping. You should enjoy it just as much, too. Find physical activities that you’ll want to do like a sporting activity, walking your dog briskly, or playing actively with your kids or grandkids. 
Improving Heart Health with Activity

If you’re just starting out and you’re overweight, have a family history of high blood pressure or heart disease or have not had a checkup in the past year, check with your physician first. Schedule a preventive health screening with your primary care physician (PCP).If you don’t have a PCP, now is a great time to find one.

“Walking is good exercise for almost anyone,” Dr. Dasari said. “Especially if you’re new to exercise or it’s been a while.”

Try to walk 2 miles in under 30 minutes most days of the week, or 2 miles in 30–40 minutes every day. Walking briskly for 45 minutes will burn around 200 calories for an average person. Doing this every day for a year while maintaining a healthy diet could mean a weight loss of up 20 pounds. 

With spring around the corner, now is a great time to lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement. Keep in mind these safety tips for outdoor exercising:

  • Run, walk or bike with a friend when you can. Stay away from dark and deserted places.
  • Dress to be seen.
  • Wear a bike helmet when riding.
  • Obey traffic and pedestrian laws for optimal safety. Watch for traffic.
  • Carry identification. It’s important if you have an accident.
  • Be careful when wearing headphones. They make it harder for you to hear traffic, dogs and people coming toward you. 

This piece was written in partnership with the American Heart Association. To learn more about heart health, visit www.heart.org.

By Blair Klayko