By Robert L. Herron and Marjorie Sanders |
With heart disease as the #1 cause of death in America for all adults, February’s American Heart Month offers a prime opportunity to learn more about the steps one can take to improve heart and overall wellness. While there are a number of lifestyle changes that can help to improve heart health, physical activity is key. The current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that each adult should aim to accumulate at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity, aerobic-type physical activity. By just meeting the minimum recommendations, one can reduce their risk of heart-disease mortality by 40%!
In this application, physical activity encompasses all types of movement and does not have to take place in a gym. Any physical activity is better than none, and generally more activity is better than less. Additionally, the weekly recommendations encourage adults to work on their flexibility most days of the week, and to complete two resistance training activities, for each major body part.
An easy way to gauge intensity is by taking the Talk Test, which can help to identify the intensity of an activity by assessing how well one is able carry on a conversation while doing the activity. For example, moderate-intensity activity would allow a person to continue a comfortable conversation, while those participating in vigorous activity would have difficulty maintaining the traditional-rhythm of a casual conversation.
For those just getting started with exercise, the good news is that even 5- or 10-minute bouts of activity can provide health benefits for beginners. Then, as one continues to build stamina and designate more time in their schedule for physical activity, more activity can be added until one reaches the 150-minute goal (i.e., 5 days per week for 30 minutes each session). Not surprisingly, additional-health benefits can be attained for those able to accumulate up to 300 minutes of physical activity per week (and perhaps more) with diminishing returns. Furthermore, as one progresses, high-intensity physical activity can help one meet the recommendations in less time (i.e., jogging, wheelchair basketball, etc.). At vigorous intensity the recommended range of activity shifts to include a minimum of 75 minutes and a reasonable, upper-limit of 150 minutes per week.
American Heart Month aims to increase people’s awareness of heart disease and to urge people to improve their heart health. From a physical-activity perspective, it does not take much to improve your heart health. Find somewhere in your community where you can be active, try a new sport, and start small; whatever you choose, just get moving.
Robert L. Herron is a faculty member at the United States Sports Academy. Robert is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® with distinction from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CSCS*D®) and a Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CEP®). firstname.lastname@example.org
Marjorie Sanders serves in the Student Services department at the United States Sports Academy. Marjorie is currently a graduate student at The University of Alabama, studying higher education administration and policy. email@example.com.