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Taking Steps: Exercising to Promote Heart Health

Emily Guseman PhD

Everyone, regardless of their cardiovascular health, can gain benefits by improving their nutrition and healthy eating behaviors and by increasing physical activity. Studies show that adults who follow national guidelines for a healthy diet and physical activity have fewer cardiovascular problems and lower death rates than those who do not.

Here are some simple recommendations to get you moving toward improving your cardiovascular health through physical activity.  But first, make sure you speak with your provider before starting any exercise routine.

Engage in Weekly Aerobic Activity

Aerobic exercise consists of brisk activity that increases the circulation of oxygen in the blood and is associated with an increased rate of breathing. Aerobic exercise stimulates and strengthens the heart and lungs. For substantial health benefits of aerobic activity, perform either moderate-intensity or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity on a weekly basis.

A list of these types of physical activity are provided at the end of this section.

Each week:

  • Perform 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity.


  • Perform 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.

You can combine moderate and vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity, as well.

For even greater health benefits, try one of the following:

Each week:

  • Work towards moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for up to 300 minutes (5 hours) each week.
  • Work towards vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for up to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week.

You can also match your dietary intake with your estimated physical expenditure.

Avoid Inactivity

Some physical activity is better than none — and any amount has health benefits. Even if you cannot achieve the full recommend activity level right now, do what you can. Any physical activity will improve your heart health.

Move often during the day, even if you have only a few minutes free. Accumulate as much movement as you can manage and limit the time you spend sitting.

Strengthen Your Muscles

There are many advantages to increasing muscle strength. By performing muscle strengthening activities, you protect your joints from injury, maintain flexibility and balance, helps you keep a healthy body weight and lowers the risk of osteoporosis (weak or brittle bones).

  • At a minimum, for two days a week, do muscle-strengthening activities (such as lifting weights or doing pushups) that are moderately to very challenging, and involve all major muscle groups, such as those that involve the upper body, lower body, and trunk.

For Older Adults

Older adults may be limited to the amount and type of exercise because of a health condition they already have. While the exercise guidelines are the same throughout adulthood, you may need additional assistance. Talk to your doctor about your health conditions and how they might affect your ability to do regular physical activity safely.

Moderate and Vigorous Activities

Vigorous activities take more effort than moderate ones. Here are a few examples of moderate and vigorous aerobic physical activities.

Be active your way by choosing activities you enjoy!

Moderate Activities: “I can talk while I do them, but I can’t sing.”

  • Ballroom and line dancing
  • Biking on level ground or with few hills
  • Canoeing
  • General gardening (raking, trimming shrubs)
  • Sports where you catch and throw (baseball, softball, volleyball)
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Using your manual wheelchair
  • Using hand cyclers—also called ergometers
  • Walking briskly
  • Water aerobics

Vigorous Activities: “I can only say a few words without stopping to catch my breath.”

  • Aerobic dance
  • Biking faster than 10 miles per hour
  • Fast dancing
  • Heavy gardening (digging, hoeing)
  • Hiking uphill
  • Jumping rope
  • Martial arts (such as Tai Chi)
  • Race walking, jogging, or running
  • Sports involving running (basketball, hockey, soccer)
  • Swimming laps
  • Tennis (singles)

For more information, visit

Apps for Tracking Fitness

Note: These apps are examples of popular choices for tracking exercise and dietary intake and are presented as suggestions only. Cardi-OH does not endorse the use of any specific app or tracking system.

  1. MyFitnessPal  – Free online calorie counter and diet plan. Helps you lose weight by tracking your calories quickly and easily, and seeing where you should make adjustments.
  2. Map My Fitness – Helps you track and map your workouts, such as walking, running, and biking, for pace, distance, and calories; also helps find nearby places to exercise.



Copyright © 2019 by Cardi-OH. All other materials should be credited appropriately.

The Ohio Cardiovascular Health Collaborative is funded by the Ohio Department of Medicaid and administered by the Ohio Colleges of Medicine Government Resource Center. The views expressed in this [presentation, publication, report] are solely those of the authors and do not represent the views of the state of Ohio or federal Medicaid programs. 


© 2019 Cardi-OH