Cardiovascular Disease in Women – Physical Activity

Not getting enough physical activity is a major health risk for people today. Being physically inactive puts you at risk for heart disease. As a person gets older, having little or no physical activity can lead to health problems. The good news is that you can do something about this risk factor.

What are the benefits of physical activity?

Physical activity can allow for a fun time with family and friends if the activities are done together. In addition, physical activity can:

  • Keep your bones strong

  • Give you more energy

  • Tone your muscles

  • Help control your appetite

  • Make your heart and lungs stronger

  • Increase the number of calories your body uses

  • Help you feel better about yourself

  • Help lower your blood pressure

  • Lower your stress

  • Help lower your blood cholesterol

  • Help you sleep better

  • Help lower your chance for diabetes

People feel better when they are active. Physical activity may help you maintain your weight at a healthy level, help you to lose weight if you are overweight, and help to control your appetite.

What can I do to be physically active?

There are different types of physical activity. Physical activity includes some of the things that you probably do each day, like walking, climbing stairs, or doing household chores. You may want to start to increase your activity with activities like walking, climbing stairs, dancing, raking leaves, vacuuming, gardening, bowling, or playing with your children.

After a while, you will be able to do even more including running or jogging, bicycling, swimming, doing aerobics or floor exercises, jumping rope, skating, or playing soccer, basketball, or baseball.

All types of physical activity help the heart. Start slowly. Then move on to higher-level activities. For example, when you are comfortable walking, increase your pace or the amount of time and you’ll feel great.

What is important to know before I get started?

Most people do not need to see a doctor before they start a slow, sensible program of physical activity. However, you should talk with your doctor if you:

  • Have heart trouble or have had a heart attack.
  • Take medicine for high blood pressure or a heart condition.
  • Are over 50 years old, (or for the men in your family if they are over 40 years old) and you want to do a harder activity, like jogging.
  • Have more than one risk factor for heart disease like high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, are overweight or smoke.
  • Have a family history of heart disease at an early age (before the age of 45 for a male family member and 55 for a female family member).

Remember to start slowly. Build up the time and effort that you put into any activity. You should not be tired the next day.

  • Drink plenty of water before and after exercising, even if you are not thirsty. You don’t need special sports drinks.
  • Wear comfortable clothing. Wear shoes and socks that give your feet support. You do not need to buy fancy outfits.
  • Never wrap your body in plastic or wear clothing that is too heavy
  • Start your physical activity slowly and during the last five minutes, slow your pace so that you body can gradually relax. This is called the cool-down period. It is recommended that you gradually slow your pace during the last five minutes of an activity. Doing a few stretches to loosen the muscles should also be part of your cool-down.

How much physical activity do you think you need each day to improve your health?

Both children and adults should be physically active for at least 30 minutes or more most days. When you are physically active you set a great example for your children. If you can’t set aside 30 minutes at one time to be active, you can break your activity into shorter periods of 10 minutes or more. Just make sure it adds up to at least 30 minutes on most days.

How can I incorporate physical activity into my daily life?

There are a lot of ways that you can incorporate physical activity into your day, free of charge:

  • Get off the bus one or two stops early and walk.
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
  • Play with your children.
  • Dance to your favorite music.
  • Take 2 to 3 minute walking breaks at work a few times a day.
  • March in place during TV commercials.
  • Walk the dog.

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