Whether you’re a couch potato or a gym rat, there is always room to improve when it comes to your heart. Are you sure you’re doing the right amount–and kind–of activity to help your heart and cardiovascular health? It’s a well-documented fact that regular physical activity is important to prevent heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association has some recommendations for what’s best to help the average adult reap the hearty benefits of exercise.
For Overall Cardiovascular Health:
• At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week (for a total of 150 minutes per week)
• At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week (for a total of 75 minutes), OR a combination of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
• Moderate-intensity to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week (for additional health benefits)
What Intensity Am I At?
According to the CDC, the easiest gauge is the “Talk Test”: in general, if you’re doing a moderate-intensity activity, you’ll be able to talk but not sing during the activity. If you’re doing a vigorous-intensity activity, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing breath.
Walking briskly, bicycling under 10mph, playing doubles tennis, ballroom dancing are all examples of a moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Vigorous-intensity activities would include race walking, jogging, running, swimming laps, playing singles tennis, aerobic dancing, bicycling faster than 10mph, jumping rope and hiking uphill.
Target Heart Rate
Another key indicator as to whether you’re getting the maximum benefit of your activity is to maintain your target heart rate for the duration of the activity. To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your (adult) age from 220. For moderate-intensity activity, your target heart rate should be 50-70% of your maximum heart rate. The target heart rate for vigorous-intensity activities is 70-85% of your maximum heart rate.
Wait, Is this Right for Me?
It’s absolutely essential that you speak with your doctor before starting any exercise regimen to discuss your level of fitness, your physical condition and your goals. Work together to determine what activities are appropriate for you, as well as what guidelines you should follow for maximum heart benefits.