Physical Activity 

Nearly 2,300 Americans die of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) each day, an average of 1 death every 38 seconds. CVD claims more lives each year than the next 3 leading causes of death combined, which are cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and accidents. Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Almost 70% of U.S. adults do not engage in the recommended amount of physical activity, according to the 2008 National Health Interview Survey. Approximately 36% of U.S. adults are not active at all.
Why don’t people get moving? Some are discouraged by the “no pain, no gain” philosophy once they get started. Some consider physical activity “no fun.” The most common reason is “not enough time.” But studies show that regular moderate physical activity can make a big difference in heart health.

Physically active doesn’t have to hurt, be hard or take up a lot of time. Research shows that even moderate aerobic physical activity - such as 30 minutes of walking briskly, bicycling, jogging or swimming – can improve your health if done regularly. Even better news: the 30 minutes doesn’t need to take place at one time. Studies show three, 10-minutes segments also produce the same health benefits!

Plus, regular physical activity makes you feel great! It:

  • Improves self-confidence.
  • Increases productivity.
  • Reduces healthcare costs.
  • Decreases anxiety and depression.
  • Tones the body.
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease by improving blood circulation throughout the body.
  • Keeps weight under control.
  • Prevents bone loss.
  • Improves blood cholesterol levels.
  • Improves the ability to fall asleep quickly and sleep well.
  • Helps manage stress.
  • Prevents and manages high blood pressure.
  • Establishes good heart-healthy habits in children and counters the conditions (obesity, high blood pressure, poor cholesterol levels, poor lifestyle habits, etc.) that lead to heart attack and stroke later in life.

 Making Physical Activity a Part of Your Life

  • Work in the garden or mow the grass. Using a riding mower doesn’t count! Rake leaves, prune, dig and pick up trash.
  • Do housework yourself instead of hiring someone else to do it.
  • Go out for a short walk before breakfast or after dinner or both! Start with 5-10 minutes and work up to a minimum of 30 minutes.
  • Walk or bike to the corner store instead of driving.
  • When walking, pick up the pace from leisurely to brisk. Choose a hilly route.
  • When watching TV, sit up instead of lying on the sofa. Better yet, spend a few minutes pedaling on your stationary bicycle while watching TV. Throw away your remote control. Instead of asking someone to bring you a drink, get up off the couch and get it yourself.
  • Do leg lifts while talking on the telephone.
  • Walk the dog.
  • Park farther away at the shopping mall and walk the extra distance. Wear your walking shoes and sneak in an extra lap or two around the mall.
    • Keep exercise equipment repaired and use it!
    • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
    • Plan family outings and vacations that include physical activity (hiking, backpacking, swimming, etc.)
    • Participate in or start a recreation league at your company.

Technical Notes: Physical inactivity data were obtained for Healthy People 2010 objective 22-02 (regular moderate and vigorous activity) and 22-01 (no leisure-time physical activity).

Data Sources:

  • American Heart Association. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2010 Update. Dallas, Texas: American Heart Association; 2010. c2010, American Heart Association.
  • National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), CDC, NCHS data obtained from CDC WONDER, DATA 2010, National Center for Health Statistics.  Accessed  10/26/11.