No matter how much attention you pay to your diet, you’re at risk of a heart attack if you don’t exercise.
Lack of exercise is the single worst risk factor for heart disease for both men and women, yet seven out of ten adults don’t do enough.
This doesn’t mean you have to rush to your local gym: becoming just a little more active will make a real difference.
Think of exercise in terms of everyday activity: the more you do, the better your fitness and the lower your risk of heart disease.
How does exercise help heart disease?
Being physically active halves your risk of heart disease. This is because exercise:
What is cardiovascular risk?
It is your likelihood of getting a disease of the heart and circulation such as:
A 30 to 40minute brisk walk three times a week is enough to improve your fitness level and reduce your cardiovascular risk.
If you are at increased risk of heart disease and stroke, you should aim to exercise for 30 minutes on five days out of seven, if not daily.
Any one of the following increases your risk of heart disease and stroke:
How can I increase activity levels?
Some simple ways to increase activity levels are:
You can split the recommended 30 minutes into manageable chunks – for example a ten minute walk to and from the bus stop to your place of work, plus a five minute walk to the shops and back.
Make exercise enjoyable
You could start by going for a drink in a pub that’s a mile away and walking there and back.
Try new places by parking your car a mile away from the center of a village or resort and walking in.
The more enjoyable exercise is, the more likely you’ll do it on a regular basis.
Energetic household chores like vacuuming, washing the windows and gardening also count as exercise.
You may want to invest in a pedometer, an electronic device that clips on your waistband and records how many steps are taken.
This will give you a base level from which to increase.
Experts recommend 10,000 steps a day.
Finally, weekends are a great opportunity to be more active. From country walks to busy shopping trips and leisure centers to health spas, there is a range of venues and activities to suit everyone.
How do I get started?
Beginning an exercise plan can be difficult if you’ve been out of the habit for a while.
Talk to your doctor if you’re over 40 or you are unsure about whether it’s safe to start.
People with high blood pressure, angina or who already have a heart problem should always consult a doctor before starting any exercise program.
Most people can take regular exercise at a level that benefits them.
At first this may mean a daily five-minute walk and then building it up by five minutes each week.
How do I know if it’s working?
Good footwear is essential for walking and jogging.
Exercise means raising your heart beat – you may experience this with a gentle stroll or need to walk briskly.
You should feel your body working quite hard, but still be able to talk.
Don’t exercise at one level: build to a maximum pace and then slow down before the end of the session.
Always warm up at the start of a session, and take time to cool down at the end with some simple stretches.
Few tips to get fit
Don’t give up. It takes three weeks to adopt a new habit.