Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease is characterized by deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, calcium and other substances in the inner lining of arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. It also contributes to other risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, a low level of HDL ("good") cholesterol and diabetes. Even moderately intense physical activity such as brisk walking is beneficial when done regularly for a total of 30 minutes or longer on most or all days.
Regular aerobic physical activity increases your fitness level and capacity for exercise. It also plays a role in both primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke and is linked to cardiovascular mortality.
Regular physical activity can help control blood lipid abnormalities, diabetes and obesity. Aerobic physical activity can also help reduce blood pressure.
The results of pooled studies show that people who modify their behavior and start regular physical activity after heart attack have better rates of survival and better quality of life. Healthy people — as well as many patients with cardiovascular disease — can improve their fitness and exercise performance with training.
Programs designed to improve physical fitness take into account frequency (how often), intensity (how hard), and time (how long). They provide the best conditioning.
The FIT Formula
F = frequency (days per week)
I = intensity (how hard, e.g., easy, moderate, vigorous) or percent of heart rate
T = time (amount for each session or day)
For health benefits to the heart, lungs and circulation, perform any moderate-to-vigorous-intensity aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week at 50–85 percent of your maximum heart rate. You can accumulate 30 minutes in 10 or 15 minute sessions. What's important is to include physical activity as part of a regular routine.
The training effects of such activities are most apparent at exercise intensities that exceed 50 percent of a person's exercise capacity (maximum heart rate). If you're physically active regularly for longer periods or at greater intensity, you're likely to benefit more. But don't overdo it. Too much exercise can give you sore muscles and increase the risk of injury.
Even moderate-intensity activities, when performed daily, can have some long-term health benefits. They help lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Here are some examples:
Eliminating Risk Factors
Regular physical activity can also help reduce or eliminate some of these risk factors:
Some people should consult their doctor before they start a vigorous exercise program. See your doctor or other healthcare provider if any of these apply to you:
If none of these is true for you, you can start on a gradual, sensible program of increased activity tailored to your needs. If you feel any of the physical symptoms listed above when you start your exercise program, contact your doctor right away. If one or more of the above is true for you, an exercise-stress test may be used to help plan an exercise program.