Basic Facts

  • Regular exercise can lengthen life and reduce the chances of cardiovascular and other diseases.
  • It is more risky for most people to be sedentary than to exercise.
  • Small changes in physical activity (like walking more to do errands) can benefit one’s health.
  • Studies have proven that exercise can lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and reduce the chances for heart attacks and many other cardiovascular diseases.
  • Unfortunately, more than 60 percent of Americans do not get the recommended amount of activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that men and women of all ages get 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 or more days a week.
  • There are four main types of physical activity:
    • Aerobic exercise
    • Strength exercise
    • Flexibility and balance exercise
    • Lifestyle exercise

Positive Impact of Proper Management

All types of exercise provide positive benefits for individuals.

Regular exercise can lower the risk for a number of cardiovascular diseases, including:

  • Angina pectoris
  • Aortoiliac occlusive disease
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Diabetic vascular disease
  • Heart attack
  • Hypertension
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Stroke

Exercise may also reduce the risk for certain types of cancer such as colon and breast cancer.

Exercise can also help to improve quality-of-life in the following ways:

  • Improving mood
  • Reducing stress
  • Lower the risk of falls
  • Increase bone strength (and muscular strength)
  • Ease arthritic pain
  • Increase well-being
  • Improve quality of sleep

Getting Started

The American Heart Association (AHA) and the CDC recommend that the following groups of people talk to their physician before they start exercising:

  • Adults with chronic disease such as heart disease, obesity, or diabetes
  • Adults at high risk for heart disease
  • Adults who have an abdominal aortic aneurism
  • Adults who have undergone an aortic dissection
  • Adults with aortic stenosis
  • Men over age 40, and women over age 50 (who are currently inactive or plan to significantly increase their activity)

The physician may also conduct tests for heart conditions in overweight or obese patients or those with a history of cardiovascular disease, prior to recommending an exercise plan.

Management Options

Physicians recommend that individuals gradually increase the frequency, duration, and intensity of exercise. The physician can help determine an appropriate level to begin (including a mixture of aerobic, strength, flexibility and balance, and lifestyle exercises). Patients should always warm up before and cool down after exercising.

Aerobic Exercise

Types of moderate aerobic exercise include:

  • Walking briskly
  • Swimming
  • Bicycling
  • Using an elliptical trainer
  • Rowing
  • Golf (without a cart)
  • Doubles tennis
  • Dancing

Most patients will be advised to work toward a goal of 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, 5 or more days a week.

Strength Exercise

Specific strength exercises include:

  • Biceps curl
  • Triceps extension
  • Arm raise
  • Pushup
  • Pull-down
  • Abdominal crunches
  • Knee extension
  • Hip extension

Many physicians recommend a goal of 15 to 20 minutes of strength exercises twice a week for most individuals.

Flexibility & Balance Exercise

It’s important and beneficial to involve stretching in your normal exercise routine. Types of stretches include hamstring stretches, quadriceps stretches, and calf stretches. Patients should stretch after aerobic or strength exercise.

Balance exercises can often be learned in tai chi, yoga and pilates classes.

Lifestyle Exercise

Examples of aerobic lifestyle exercise include:

  • Housework
  • Yard work
  • Walking to do errands or to take public transportation

Timeline of Effectiveness

Exercise can have immediate positive effects on mood and insulin sensitivity. Other benefits may take weeks or months to occur, including fitness level, weight loss, or recovery from a particular disease or condition.

Patients who already take medications for cardiovascular disease should not stop using them once they start exercising or adding any other lifestyle changes. Patients should always discuss their drug treatment with their physician.

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Medical Review Date: July 16, 2008 / Copyright © 2012 NorthPoint Domain, Inc. All rights reserved. This material cannot be reproduced in digital or printed form without the express consent of NorthPoint Domain, Inc. Unauthorized copying or distribution of NorthPoint Domain’s Content is an infringement of the copyright holder’s rights.