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Exercise to Your Heart’s Content

As Valentine’s Day approaches, things of the heart, including heart health, are likely to come to mind. If you’re not already taking exercise to heart, then February ─ heart month ─ is a perfect time to begin!

To protect your heart and overall health, see your Summit Medical Group practitioner
before increasing the intensity of your current workout or starting a new exercise routine.
He or she will make sure it's safe for you to start exercising.

Have Your Heart in the Right Place

Your heart, like other muscles, as well as your circulatory (cardiovascular) and lung (respiratory) systems need regular endurance (or aerobic) exercise to be healthy. Aerobic exercise includes activities that increase heart and breathing rates. Walking briskly, jogging/running, swimming, dancing, climbing stairs, and cycling are ideal endurance exercises.1

Although vigorous movement for 20 consecutive minutes or more is best for building cardiovascular fitness, recreational activities such as tennis, racquetball, soccer, basketball, and other sports that require participants to run also can strengthen your heart and lungs.2

Research shows that regular exercise positively affects heart health as well as overall health, including:

  • Improving sleep, lowering blood pressure, and protecting against diabetes
    Getting plenty of sleep can help lower blood pressure ─ a benefit that helps keep arteries supple so that blood can flow freely to where it’s needed.3 A good night’s sleep also helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels, which is important for protecting against diabetes. If you have diabetes, regular practitioner-guided exercise can help improve circulation and your ability to process the hormone insulin.4
  • Reducing emotional stress and improving mood
    Studies show that exercise can be as effective as antidepressant therapy in some patients.3 In addition, research shows that higher stress levels and depression increase risk of cardiac events, including heart attacks and stroke.5
  • Burning calories and dropping unwanted pounds
    If you are overweight, losing 10 pounds with regular exercised combine with a calorie-conscious diet can lower your risk of heart disease.6
  • Improving lipid levels
    Data show that regular exercise raises good (high-density lipoprotein [HDL] cholesterol and lowers bad (low-density lipoprotein [LDL] cholesterol.7
  • Reversing/reducing risk of heart disease and reducing risk of stroke
    Data show that regular exercise can reduce risk of fatal and nonfatal coronary events8

American Heart Association Recommendations on Physical Activity

According to the American Heart Association, adults should exercise moderately 150 minutes or more per week or they should exercise vigorously 75 minutes per week. For an easy-to-remember formula, engage in moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise no less than 30 minutes a day 5 times a week.

If you need to lower your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol levels, and/or lose weight, you should engage in moderate-to-vigorous intensity workouts 40 minutes or more 3 to 4 times per week.

If your schedule doesn’t allow you to exercise for 30 minutes or more, take heart! Recent research shows that people benefit from 10-to-15-minute exercise bursts as long as they total 30 minutes or more per day.

A combination of moderate and vigorous workouts during the week also can help protect your cardiovascular health.9

In addition to regular exercise, other lifestyle behaviors can help protect your heart health, including:

If you have had a heart attack or stroke,
talk with your Summit Medical Group doctor about exercising.

In addition to explaining how regular exercise
can help reduce your risk of another heart attack or cardiovascular event,
your doctor can guide you to an exercise program that will be safe and effective for you.

There's no age limit to getting fit. Even if you're elderly and you've never exercised before, you can do wonders for your heart, overall, and emotional health if you start exercising regularly.


  1. Wilson MG Ellison GM, Cable NT. Basic science behind the cardiovascular benefits of exercise. Br J Sports Med. 2016; 50(2):93-99.
  2. Marti B. Health effects of recreational running in women: some epidemiological and preventive aspects. Sports Med. 1991; 11(1):20-51.
  3. Senthil S, Krishnadasa SN. Prehypertension and its determinants in apparently healthy young adults. J Clin Diagn Res. 2016; 10(9):CC05-CC08.
  4. Min H, Um YJ, Jang BS, Shin D, Choi E, Park SM, Lee K. Association between sleep duration and measurable cardiometabolic risk factors in healthy Korean women: the fourth and fifth Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (KNHANES IV and V. Int J Endocrinol. 2016: 3784210.
  1. Bayak M, Blumenthal JA, Herman S, et al. Exercise treatment for major depression: maintenance of therapeutic benefit at 10 months. Psychosom Med. 2000;62(5):633-638.
  2. Sumner JA, Khodneva Y, Muntner P, Redmond N, Lewis MW, Davidson KW, Edmondson D, Richman J, Safford MM. Effects of concurrent depressive symptoms and perceived stress on cardiovascular risk in low- and high-income participants: findings from the Reasons for Geographical and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016; 5(10):e003930.
  3. Ritti-Dias RM, Cucato GG, do Prado WL, Conceicao RD, Santos RD, Bittencourt MS. Self-initiated changes in physical activity levels improve cardiometabolic profiles: a longitudinal follow-up study. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2017; 27(1):48-53.
  4. Mandrup CM, Egelund J, Nyberg M, et al. Effects of high-intensity training on cardiovascular risk factors in premenopausal and postmenopausal women. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2016; pii: S0002-9378(16)46206-X. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2016.12.017.
  5. American Heart Association. Healthy Living. American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults. www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity. Accessed January 17, 2017.
  6. US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition, Washington, DC. 2015.
  7. Lee JS, Chang PY, Kizer JR, Best LG, Howard BV. Triglyceride and HDL-D dyslipidemia and risks of coronary heart disease and ischemic stroke by glycemic dysregulation status: the Strong Heart Study. Diabetes Care. 2017; pii: dc161958. doi: 10.2337/dc16-1958. [Epub ahead of print].