If you’re looking for some easy ways to take better charge of your health this year, here’s one: get up and move. Not only does physical activity help improve your overall health, it protects your heart, too, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). To make the point, and mark American Heart Month this February, NHLBI is launching a #MoveWithHeart campaign. Here are some facts—and some “get-moving” tips and resources—to inspire you to sit less and move more.
Why move more everyday?
Heart disease is a leading cause of death among African Americans in the United States, but fortunately adding more physical activity to your daily routine can help your heart and improve your overall health. Think about it: Being sedentary or inactive makes you nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease than if you’re active.
Being active can:
- Strengthen your heart (even if you have heart disease)
- Improve blood flow
- Lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Give you more stamina and help you cope with stress
- Help you control your weight
- Help you quit smoking
Many types of activity can help your heart, whether it’s shooting hoops, taking an exercise class at your local recreation center, or walking during your lunchbreak. The bottom line for you and your family: Get up and get moving!
How much is enough?
As little as 60 minutes a week of physical activity such as walking briskly helps your heart. For major health benefits, aim for at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) a week. Walk around your neighborhood or the track at a nearby school, or start a walking club after church.
If you want to get the same benefits in less time, try for 75 minutes of activities, such as playing a full game of basketball, jumping rope, or working out to a fun YouTube fitness video. It’s up to you how you reach your own personal targets. For example, 30 minutes of physical activity 5 times a week is one option if you’re aiming for 150 minutes a week.
Can’t carve out that much time at once? Don’t chuck your goal, chunk it! Try 10 minutes a few times a day, for example. You’ll know your workout counts if:
Remember: more activity means a bigger boost to your health, so try to stay active between workouts. Here are some ideas:
- Take the stairs.
- Stand up when you change television channels.
- When you hear good music, don’t just sit there, dance!
- Stand up during meetings, or better yet, suggest a walking meeting.
- Park in the farthest space from your destination.
- Get off the bus one stop early.
- Play with your kids at the playground.
When to check with your doctor
If you have a chronic health condition such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, or other symptoms, talk with your doctor first. Learn more about risks of physical activity for certain groups on NHLBI’s website.
Getting regular physical activity can mean fewer doctor visits, hospitalizations, and medications. Choosing to move more whenever possible is one of the best choices you and your family can make.