The American Heart Organization points out that physical activity has a positive impact on several health aspects: Obesity & Overweight - Weight can be stabilized or decreased with regular physical activity Diabetes Prevention - There is a reduced risk of diabetes because (1) overweight which contributes to diabetes can be kept in check with physical activity, and (2) insulin requirements for people with diabetes decreases with regular exercise
High Blood Pressure - High blood pressure can be lowered with regular physical activity High Triglyceride Levels - Triglycerides or "fat" in the blood can be reduced by aerobic activity that consumes a lot of oxygen or requires heavy breathing Cigarette Smoking - Smokers who become physically active are more likely to cut down or stop smoking Low HDL Levels - Recent studies show that regular physical activity can significantly increase HDL cholesterol levels and thus reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
There are additional benefits of physical activity:
- Physical activity contributes to healthy bones, muscles and joints, and reduces the risk of colon cancer
- Physical activity also helps psychologically by reducing feelings of depression and anxiety, improving mood and promoting a sense of well being
- The 1996 Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity suggests that active people have a lower risk of stroke
Types Of Activities
The kind of physical activities best for the heart are endurance or aerobic activities such as brisk walking or jogging, hiking, bicycling, swimming, rowing, cross-country skiing or dancing.
Team sports that include continous running such as soccer and basketball are also beneficial.
Even moderate-intensity activities can have some long-term health benefits when performed daily. They help lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Some example include: walking, gardening, housework, dancing and prescribed home exercise, as well as recreational activities such as tennis, racquetball, soccer, basketball and touch football.
Programs designed to improve physical fitness take into account frequency (how often), intensity (how hard), and time (how long). For health benefits to the heart, lungs and circulation, perform any moderate-to-vigorous-intensity aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. You can accumulate 30 minutes in 10-15 minute sessions. The important thing 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 or maximum heart rate. The best trainings effects can be achieved between 50%-85% of your maximum heart rate called the "target zone." A higher heart rate, at least for an extended period, is not healthy.
The following table indicates average maximum heart rates and estimated target heart rates for different ages:
Heart Rate (100%)
|Heart Rate Target Zone|
(50%-85% of maximum)
|20 years||200 beats per minute||100-170 beats per minute|
|25 years||195 beats per minute||98-166 beats per minute|
|30 years||190 beats per minute||95-162 beats per minute|
|35 years||185 beats per minute||93-157 beats per minute|
|40 years||180 beats per minute||90-153 beats per minute|
|45 years||175 beats per minute ||88-149 beats per minute|
|50 years||170 beats per minute||85-145 beats per minute|
|55 years||165 beats per minute||83-140 beats per minute|
|60 years||160 beats per minute||80-136 beats per minute|
|65 years||155 beats per minute||78-132 beats per minute|
|70 years||150 beats per minute||75-128 beats per minute|
|should be determined|
An easy formula to calculate your maximum heart rate is subtract your age from 220. The figures above are averages and should only be used as general guidelines. It is advisable to undergo a health check before starting any excercise program. Some physicians offer customized training plans based on your personal fitness and age.