Exercise and Heart Health

By: Paige Wray, Extension Assistant Professor

two people holding a heart in their palms

February is famous for being the month of hearts and love. One way we can show our own hearts love is by being physically active. In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death among men, women, and most racial, ethnic groups. About 1 in every 4 deaths is caused by heart disease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). Being physically active to improve our hearth health is a great motivator to stay active.
In the human body, the heart is one of the hardest working muscles. Like any muscle, the heart gets stronger and healthier the more you exercise it. Those who are not physically active are at a higher risk for heart disease and related conditions. So how can being physically active benefit your heart? 

  1. Physical activity can help lower your blood pressure
  2. Physical activity can help you keep your weight under control
  3. Physical activity can help boost your good cholesterol levels
  4. Physical activity can help improve blood flow
  5. Physical activity can help reduce the impact of stress
  6. Physical activity can lower your risk of diabetes 
(American Heart Association, 2016, 2017)
Aerobic exercise, “activities that involve steady, rhythmic movement of the legs and arms (American Heart Association, 2016)”, are particularly good for the heart. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. It is recommended to spend less time sitting, activities that are light-intensity can help offset some of the risks associated with being sedentary. For children, it is recommended that ages 3-5 should be physically active and have many opportunities to move. Ages 6-17 should get 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity. This should be mostly aerobic (US Department of Health and Human Service, 2018).
Whether you are already physically active or are just getting started, make a goal to move more and sit less this month. Not only will you feel better, but you will be showing your heart some love.


American Heart Association. (2016, March 31). What’s the link between physical activity and health?. www.Heart.Org. Retrieved February 1, 2022, from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cardiac-rehab/getting-physically-active/whats-the-link-between-physical-activity-and-health

American Heart Association. (2017, January 14). Why is physical activity so important for health and well-being?. www.Heart.Org. Retrieved February 1,, 2022, from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/why-is-physical-activity-so-important-for-health-and-wellbeing

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, September 27). Heart Disease Facts. cdc.gov. Retrieved February, 1, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

US Department of Health and Human Service. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018.