Physical Activity for Improved Heart Health

— Written By and last updated by Nancie Mandeville
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heart pumping iron This is Hayley Napier, Family & Consumer Sciences Agent with Union County Cooperative Extension. Last week, I shared a little information about February being National Heart Health Month and the importance of taking care of your heart. This week I want to talk about physical activity as a great way to improve your heart health.

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children and adolescents should do 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day; this includes aerobic activity (i.e. walking or running), muscle strengthening (i.e. gymnastics or push-ups), and bone strengthening (i.e. jumping rope or running). In addition, adults need AT LEAST 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e. brisk walking) AND muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups. However, the more vigorous the workout the less aerobic activity is required to receive health benefits. Do keep in mind, that you can always increase your physical activity for even greater health benefits.

Another great thing to note is that you don’t have to do all of your daily exercise at once! It is just as beneficial if you are doing just ten minutes at a time. You may be wondering…well how do I know if the intensity of my exercise is moderate or vigorous? Moderate-intensity means you are working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat; you are able to talk but not sing a song. In comparison, vigorous-intensity means you are working very hard, are breathing heavily, and have difficulty talking.

Lastly, there are several ways to keep up with your daily physical activity, such as writing in a journal or exercise log, downloading a free fitness app like myfitnesspal or loseit, or buying a fitness watch or fitbit. With all of this great information in mind, now you MUST be getting excited to start planning more exercise into your day! For more information on nutrition and wellness programming, contact your local Cooperative Extension office.