The heart is a muscular organ that pushes blood and oxygen to every cell in the body. The body cannot work as it should without this process. The heart plays a role in many parts of your health and wellness. This is why we should stay active to keep it healthy.
An Efficient Muscle
The heart beats an average of 60 to 80 beats per minute. This can add up to millions of beats in just one month. It is important for something that works this hard to also work efficiently. Athletes can have resting heart rates below 50 beats per minute. Their heart beats slower, but it can do the same amount of work or more than a heart that beats 60 to 80 beats per minute. An athlete’s heart pumps stronger during each beat, needing fewer beats to get the job done.
You do not need to be an elite athlete to have a strong, healthy heart. Being active can help your heart and ward off many health problems. At least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity can lead to better heart health. This is about 30 minutes on most days of the week. It can be as simple as going for a walk.
Our bodies are made to be active. Inactivity can lead to problems that put stress on the heart and raise the risk of heart disease.
Lowering Stress on the Heart
The heart can be affected by physical and mental stressors. You can feel your heart speed up when you run to board a train or when you have a burst of emotion like anger or surprise.
Activity can ease the effect of stress on your body, which will:
- Improve your heart’s ability to pump blood
- Raising your energy levels
- Increase your muscle strength and tone
- Help you burn calories so you reach or maintain a healthy weight
It can also improve your overall wellness by:
- Easing stress
- Improving self-image
- Helping you sleep better
Even if you have heart problems, a strong and healthy body can help you manage your condition. Physical activity can lower stress on a sick or weak heart and lower the risk of obesity and diabetes. As always, talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program. People who have not been active should also talk to their doctors before starting a program.
Where to Start
Most people can start right away. Find an activity that you enjoy that fits into your schedule. Otherwise, you will lose interest quickly. A program that starts with too much intensity is also likely to lose your interest.
Work towards reaching these basic goals:
- 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week
- Strength training at least twice a week
Make It Stick
Make exercise a habit. Start up slowly and add time and intensity as you go. Here are some other tips that may help:
- Workout with a friend. You will be less likely to skip your workout.
- Write it down or use a fitness tracker. Keep a log of your activities and how much you get done either by distance or time. It will help keep you honest.
- A long-term goal is fine, but also make short-term goals, because they provide quicker feedback.
- Make it a priority. Plan it out. Find a time in your daily routine when you can regularly fit the activity in.
- Think about doing your activity in 10 minute bursts during the day. This can be as effective as being active for 30 minutes at once.
- Be flexible. Life happens and you may find that you need to make changes to your routine. A rigid schedule and goal may not be worth the stress. Keep an open mind to new activities and schedules.
Make It Count
Any physical activity is better than none. A moderate intensity level is best to help you make health changes. It gets your heart rate up and makes you feel a little out of breath but not worn out when you are done.
Do not forget to enjoy your activity for the daily benefits it can bring. Know that your heart appreciates it as well!
American College of Sports Medicine
American Heart Association
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
American Heart Association guidelines for physical activity in adults and kids. American Heart Association website. Available: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults. Accessed June 25, 2021.
Guide to physical activity. National Heart and Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/phy_act.htm. Accessed June 25, 2021.
Physical activity basics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics. Accessed June 25, 2021.
Physical activity guidelines for Americans. United States Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf. Accessed June 25, 2021.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 6/25/2021