What Exercise is Right for Me?

Exercise is essential to living heart-healthy. Why? “Our bodies were designed to be physically active, and they don’t do well with long-term exposure to sedentary living. Lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” says Russell Pate, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Exercise at the University of South Carolina. “Exercise can be viewed as a preventative medical treatment, ‘like a pill’ that should be taken on an almost daily basis.”

AHA Physical Activity Recommendations for Adults

  • Get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week.

  • Add moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity (such as resistance or weights) on at least 2 days per week.

  • Spend less time sitting. Even light-intensity activity can offset some of the risks of being sedentary.

  • Gain even more benefits by being active at least 300 minutes (5 hours) per week.

  • Increase amount and intensity gradually over time.

Physical activity and calories

There are numerous ways you can exercise every day. Help determine what exercise is right for you using the following information on calories burned by type of workout. The chart below shows the approximate calories spent per hour by a 100-, 150- and 200-pound person doing a particular activity.

Walking, jogging and running

Do you want to start jogging or running but don’t think you can motivate yourself? Dr. Deborah Rohm Young, vice chair of the AHA’s Physical Activity Subcommittee, encourages women to start by setting small goals. Begin by walking 15 minutes four times per week, Young suggests. “You can experience an increased sense of well-being almost immediately,” she says. “From there, you can have more energy to do other things.”