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Give Your Heart a Workout

An active life means a healthy heart

Young woman walking on treadmillExercising on a regular basis is one of the best ways to keep your heart healthy. Your heart is a muscle and thrives on physical fitness. By including 30 minutes of physical activity into your daily routine, you can reduce your risk of heart disease, better manage your weight, and possibly add years to your life.

Four ways exercise helps your heart

Regular exercise can improve your health in many ways, particularly by reducing the main factors of heart disease. While you are working out, you:

  • Burn calories to help you avoid becoming overweight, a major risk factor for heart disease.

  • Lower blood pressure by just getting 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise each day.

  • Reduce stress since exercise produces endorphins and can improve your sleep habits.

  • Lower bad cholesterol and help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol.

Moderate and energetic activities for your heart

To improve your overall heart health, you should do some form of aerobic exercise for 30 minutes each day. Your chosen activity can be considered "moderate" if you can talk while doing it, but not sing. Moderate aerobic exercises can vary depending on your hobbies but can consist of bicycling, walking, gardening, or even golf.

For more heart benefits, consider adding some vigorous activity to your weekly routine. It's recommended you spend 75 minutes each week doing some form of vigorous aerobic exercise. This could include climbing stairs, jogging, jumping rope, or swimming laps in the pool.

Keep track of your health

For moderate aerobic exercise, your target heart rate should be 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate. While with vigorous aerobic exercise, your target heart rate should be 70% to 85% of your maximum heart rate. Veterans with a Premium account on My HealtheVet can record and track both their physical activities as well as their heart rate. They can easily view their progress online and share this information with their health care team.

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Read More

Physical Activity for a Healthier Heart (Veterans Health Library)

How to Take Your Heart Rate (PDF)

Surprising Tips for Heart Health (VA)

Updated September 29, 2022