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Perhaps exercise has not been a regular part of your life. But now, you have important reasons to make exercise a part of each day.


Think of exercise as medicine for your heart.

Regular exercise and activity are important for everyone, and of special value to people with heart and circulatory problems.

What exercise can do for you

Exercise has many benefits including:

  • lowering your heart's workload by decreasing heart rate and blood pressure at rest
  • lowering your glucose level and helping your body use insulin better
  • increasing the metabolism of fats and lowering your blood lipids
  • improving the efficiency of your heart, muscles and blood vessels
  • improving circulation, getting more oxygen to your muscles and tissues
  • acting as a natural anti-depressant, lifting your spirits helping you handle and recover from stress.

How often you should exercise

Exercise needs to be tailored to the type of heart problem you have. Cardiac rehabilitation professionals are specially trained to help you design an exercise program that meets your needs.

Did you know?

The new guideline for heart health in women is some form of exercise every day

Exercise at least three to five times each week. It is best for you to get some form of exercise every day.

If you have diabetes, exercise every day, at about the same time each day. If your goal is to lose weight, exercise more than five times a week, but reduce the intensity and exercise for longer periods each time.

How hard you need to exercise


To tell how hard you are exercising, use the "talk test." This is your ability to have a fairly normal conversation while exercising.

If you can sing, you need to work a little harder. If you have trouble talking, you need to slow down.

Your cardiac rehabilitation therapist will instruct you on how many minutes your first exercise sessions should last. Gradually increase the time of your exercise sessions up to a minimum of 30 minutes, if you do not develop any symptoms.

Typically you should exercise hard enough so the exercise is challenging, yet it's comfortable and tolerable. It's normal to be a little short of breath and break a sweat, but you should be able to have a conversation during exercise.

Over time, as you gain strength and stamina, the exercise levels you are currently working at will become easier (no longer a challenge). That would indicate you need to gradually increase the intensity/work level to keep it challenging and continue to provide you with the cardiovascular benefits.



Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Helping Your Heart, fourth edition, cvs-ahc-90648

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 06/01/2007

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts