Heart Risk Assessment

Preventing Heart Disease
Physical Activity Level

A sedentary lifestyle doubles the risk of heart disease. A physically inactive lifestyle also increases the risk of stroke, diabetes, and becoming overweight or obese.

Even a moderate amount of regular exercise has enormous health benefits, yet 60 percent of Americans are not even moderately active.

National guidelines advise children and adults to accumulate 30 minutes of activity on most days. There are many creative ways busy people can accumulate that much activity. For instance, take the stairs whenever possible (5 minutes), park a few blocks from your destination so that you have to walk the rest of the way (10 minutes), take a brisk family walk after dinner (15 minutes), mow the lawn (15+ minutes). You'll see that it adds up.

Benefits of Exercise

Regular activity and aerobic exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. It can improve blood circulation and the body's ability to use oxygen. Regular exercise can also increase your "good" cholesterol (HDL).

The benefits of exercise expand into all areas of your life. Exercise:

  • Protects against stress and tension.
  • Curtails depression or anxiety.
  • Enhances your self-image.
  • Makes you feel energetic instead of fatigued.
  • Promotes a good night's sleep.
  • Burns extra calories.
  • Controls your appetite.

Exercise also helps you lose weight. If a person weighing 200 lbs. consumes the same amount of calories as usual but adds a daily brisk walk of 1.5 miles, he or she will lose about 14 lbs. in a year!

Types of Exercise

The best exercise for heart health is aerobic activity that increases blood flow to the muscles and heart. Start with moderate activities, 30 minutes daily, which is adequate for developing moderate fitness and reducing heart disease risk. For higher fitness levels (and an additional small advantage in risk reduction), alternate more vigorous activities with moderate activities.

Caution: If you have a high risk of heart disease, a history of heart disease, diabetes, or other serious health problem, get your doctor's guidance before beginning or increasing an exercise program.

Moderate-intensity Activity Vigorous-intensity Activity
Walking briskly (3 to 4 mph)

Toning exercises or calisthenics


Mowing lawn

Golf (pulling or carrying clubs)

Home repair (painting)

Fishing, standing/casting

Jogging (moderate pace)

Swimming (moderate pace)

Cycling (less than 10 mph)


Canoeing (leisurely, 2 to 3.9 mph)


Fitness walking



Roller skating





Jumping rope


Steps You Can Take Today:

  • Enjoy a 10 to 15 minute walk.
  • Call a friend who is at the same fitness level as you are. Ask him or her to exercise with you.
  • Print out the Physical Activity Log and use it to chart your progress.
  • Create a daily game plan. Map out little blocks of time when you can squeeze in exercise. Some suggestions: coffee breaks, lunch hours, between errands.

Tip: Choose activities you like. That will increase your desire to stick with it.

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