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Is some exercise better than none?

Main Line Health April 12, 2022 Heart Health

Exercising is an important way to lower your risk for cardiovascular disease. Unlike your age or genetics, it's something you control. And the good news? Yes, even small amounts of exercise can make a difference.

"The recommended guidelines are at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week, 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise or an equivalent combination of both," says Mara Caroline, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Main Line Health. "But you can reap benefits even if you don't reach those levels."

Unfortunately, just over half of Americans 18 and over are getting enough physical activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pandemic has further contributed to the challenge, in some cases.

Why some exercise is better than none

Regular exercise lowers the risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. It can also strengthen your bones, delay the onset of dementia and help with weight control.

Moderate exercise includes activities like:

  • Brisk walking
  • Dancing
  • Yoga

Even housework is good for getting your heart-rate up.

Vigorous exercise includes biking, aerobics and fast swimming. You could start by replacing one hour of sedentary time with something active. For instance, instead of meeting a friend for coffee, take a walk together instead.

Dr. Caroline says research demonstrates that "physical activity and exercise capacity—how much physical exertion a person can sustain—play a big role in preventing many diseases." Further, she says, "they found that patients with heart disease have a 20 to 30 percent decreased risk of death if they exercise regularly—no matter how intense it is, when they start or whether they're losing weight."

"Exercise has a real impact on cardiovascular health," Caroline adds. "It's never too late to start."

Ready to get moving?

Read a cardiac rehab nurse's recommendations for starting a workout routine. Be sure to talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program. If you're ready to commit to a program, the Main Line Health Fitness & Wellness Center in Concordville offers medically supervised fitness programs and classes that can challenge you and get you on the path to good health.

Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.