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Heart Health Tips for Beginners – Part 5 – Cardio Exercise

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Throughout this series, we’ve talked about some of the risk factors for heart disease, we busted some diet myths, we talked about what types of foods we should and shouldn’t eat for a heart-healthy diet. So in this last part, I wanted to touch on cardio exercise a little bit. Cardio exercise (i.e. cardiovascular or aerobic exercise) is basically any exercise that raises your heart rate.

The American Heart Association (AHA) gives us some recommendations when it comes to physical activity and what we should aim for each week:

To improve your overall cardiovascular health: do at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous cardio exercise per week (or you can do a combination of the two)1.

Examples of Moderate Intensity Activities 2:

  • Walking briskly (at a pace of 3 miles per hour or faster)
  • Biking (slower than 10 miles per hour)
  • Skating at an even pace
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Dancing
  • General gardening
  • Housework

Examples of Vigorous Intensity Activities 2:

  • Race walking, jogging, or running
  • Biking (10 miles per hour or faster)
  • Tennis (singles)
  • Aerobic dancing
  • Heavy gardening (continuous digging or hoeing)
  • Swimming laps
  • Jumping rope
  • Hiking uphill

If you’re not sure if you’re working at a moderate or vigorous level, you can estimate the intensity by using what the AHA calls, the “talk test”. In general, during moderate intensity activities, your heart rate will increase, but most people can talk and hold a conversation without losing their breath. By comparison, saying more than a short phrase or a couple of words without needing to take a breath becomes difficult during vigorous intensity activities.

For our beginners who are just starting out, you’ll want to stick with moderate cardio exercise, which breaks down to only 30 minutes a day, 5x a week, in order to meet the recommendation of 150 mins/week.

If you don’t have a 30-minute block of time available in your day or you don’t think you can last for that long, you try breaking it down into smaller chunks. For example, if you have 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes during your lunch and 10 minutes after dinner, you can take 3 separate brisk walks each day to get all the same benefits of one 30-minute walk.

Even if you’ve never exercised or it’s been months or years since you’ve been active, there’s no reason why you can’t start small and work your way up. Something is better than nothing when it comes to physical activity.

To start small, try some of the following ideas to get moving:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walk to a coworker’s desk to talk instead of sending an email or calling.
  • Find a walking buddy to join you or walk your dog
  • Park further away
  • Do some quick exercises (run in place, pushups, lunges, squats, etc.) during commercial breaks of your favorite show

If these ideas don’t appeal to you, find something that you WILL enjoy doing. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, as long as it’s something you like and you’re moving! If you have an injury or a physical condition that prevents you from doing physical activities, be sure to discuss it with your doctor to find something you can do! Don’t let your excuses get in the way or hold you back anymore. Your heart and body will thank you for it!

We can do this together! If you’re looking for a more structured cardio exercise programs but don’t know where to stay, let’s connect. Schedule a free coaching call with me so we can discuss your options and figure out the best plan of action for you!

In case you missed any other parts in this series, you can find the entire series linked below:
1) Part 1: Heart Health Tips for Beginners
2) Part 2: Heart Healthy Diet Myths BUSTED
3) Part 3: Top 15 Heart Healthy Foods
4) Part 4: What NOT to eat!
5) Part 5: Get up and Get Moving!



  1. Physical Activity Recommendations
  2. Moderate vs Vigorous Activity

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