Fitness Basics


Wondering what you need to know to improve your physical fitness and help reduce your heart disease risk? Let’s start with these fitness basics.

Physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burn calories.

For people who would benefit from lowering their blood pressure or cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends 40 minutes of aerobic exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity three to four times a week to lower the risk for heart attack and stroke.

Below are several key types of exercise that can all help you improve your level of fitness.

1. Strength and resistance training

Strength and resistance training are important elements of a good physical activity routine. The American Heart Association recommends strength training at least twice per week.

A well-rounded strength-training program provides the following benefits:

  • Increased strength of bones, muscles and connective tissues (tendons and ligaments)
  • Lower risk of injury
  • Increased muscle mass, which makes it easier for your body to burn calories and thus maintain a healthy weight
  • Better quality of life

2. Walking and running

Walking is a great way to get you moving with minimal impact on your body. It’s also low-risk and easy to start. While the AHA recommends that adults get 150 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week, even short 10 minute activity sessions can be added up over the week to reach this goal.

A regular walking program can also:

  • Improve your cholesterol profile
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase your energy and stamina
  • Boost bone strength
  • Prevent weight gain

Do you want to start jogging or running but aren’t sure how? 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 wellbeing almost immediately,” she says. “From there, you can have more energy to do other things.”

3. Yoga

Yoga is an ancient practice with potential mental and physical health benefits for people of all ages.

Practicing yoga—as part of an overall healthy lifestyle—can:

  • Help lower blood pressure
  • Increase lung capacity
  • Improve respiratory function
  • Boost circulation and
  • Tone muscles
  • Give you a sense of well-being while building strength

In addition, yoga poses require stretching, increasing flexibility.

Flexibility activities are an appropriate part of a physical activity program. Note however that yoga does not count toward the 150-minutes-per-week of recommended moderate activity. That’s due in part because some forms of yoga do not raise the heart rate enough to achieve moderate intensity aerobic activity for a sustained period.

Try these yoga moves to improve your heart health.

Learn more about different types of exercises, including swimming and bicycling, to find what is right for you.