Search our website Find job opportunies at THI and St. Luke's Find a doctor location and contact information
About UsPatient CareHeart information Center EducationResearchSupport The Texas Heart Institute
Women's Heart & Vascular Health
 
Center for Women's Heart & Vascular Health
  Back to previous page

 
 

  Read all issues of 
  "Straight Talk" in 
  the archives. 

Straight Talk from 'Dr. Stephanie' - October 2011
| Share

 
Answering the Exercise Question
  
 En español 

Stephanie Coulter, MDExercise. Simple, right? Easy to implement.  

Well, maybe not so simple. Myths, old wives' tales and conflicting current research often make the "how" and "how long" of exercise confusing. I hope to clear this up for you and motivate you to chart a clear path to exercise that will make you feel better and make your heart – and the rest of your body – healthy! 

Why exercise?

Other than quitting smoking, no single thing you can do has such broad health benefits. Exercise also reduces cardiovascular risks for women even more than for men.

If you exercise regularly, you will

  • Lose weight
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Lower your bad cholesterol
  • Increase your good cholesterol
  • Lower your risk of heart attack
  • Lower your risk of developing diabetes
  • Lower your risk of stroke
  • Lower your risk of depression
  • Lower your risk of heart disease
    and, yes,
  • Live longer.  

So, unless your doctor has specifically told you not to be physically active, you should exercise. People at any age or fitness level can benefit from some type of exercise. If you are unsure whether you should exercise, talk your doctor. 

How to Exercise

Walking, jogging, swimming, dancing and cycling are the kinds of exercise that benefit your heart. Also called "aerobic exercise" or "cardiovascular exercise," this is any exercise that raises your heart rate and keeps it elevated for 30 minutes or more.

Anaerobic exercises, such as strength-building and flexibility training, have no cardiovascular benefit. However, they do strengthen the muscles and bones, and when coupled with aerobic exercise, can benefit the entire body.

When performing aerobic exercise, a moderate pace is just as effective as an intense one. You have obtained a moderate level of aerobic exercise when you can still talk while exercising, but you start to sweat.

How Much to Exercise

150 minutes per week in 30-minute intervals is the minimum amount of cardiovascular exercise you need to benefit your heart. This allows you to be active five days a week with two days of rest. I recommend being active 30 minutes a day for 30 days to establish the habit of exercising on a regular basis. If you can do more, that’s even better.

Getting Started

So you want to increase your physical activity. Now what? The hardest part about starting a new exercise routine is starting. Here are some easy ways to get started.

  1. Be realistic. Weight loss and an increase in stamina take time. Don’t expect to be running a marathon and losing a dress size in your first week
  2. Be intentional. Set aside specific times to be physically active. Plan your physical activities in advance so you know what you’re going to do, when, where, and with whom.
  3. Set goals. Start out slow and set a realistic short-term goal, like walking 10 minutes every day for the first week and taking the stairs. To increase your likelihood of staying with the routine long term, set a long-term goal as well, such as walking for 30 minutes at least 5 days a week by the end of the first month.
  4. Round up support. Studies show that women who involve friends and family in lifestyle changes are more likely to stick to them. Have friends participate in physical activity with you, or ask your partner to hold you accountable for completing your workout schedule. Having a support system around you will help you make it through those days you just don’t feel like getting off the couch.

For more detailed information about exercise and the heart, visit: Exercise.


Until next time!
Stephanie Coulter, MD, Director of the Center for Women's Heart & Vascular Health
Stephanie Coulter, MD
  


We are saving hearts and trees. The Women's Heart Health E-News is sent via e-mail and posted online. Sign up using the form on this page. Read previous issues in archives.

Visit the Center for Women's Heart & Vascular Health at www.texasheart.org/women.

Top  
Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Subscribe to us on YouTube Find Us on Flicikr Follow Us on Pinterest Add us on Google+ Find us on LinkedIn

Please contact our Webmaster with questions or comments.
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
© Copyright 1996-2014 Texas Heart Institute.
All rights reserved.
This website is accredited by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. U.S. NEWS America's Best Hospitals 2013-14