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Short Workouts Can Be Good For Your Heart

Learn how to gain heart health benefits with several short workouts in a day.

three older women with workout equipment in hand

It’s no secret that exercise is good for heart health. But what’s the secret to actually making exercise happen during a busy day? It may be easier than you think.

Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week for adults. But don’t worry ― you don’t have to get those 150 minutes in all at once. Divvying up that total throughout the day is just as beneficial. In fact, you can split it any way you’d like. The most important thing to remember is that all activity counts — just make sure you move more every day and sit less. Any amount of activity will help lower your risk for serious conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease.

Aerobic exercise: Choose your favorites

Aerobic exercise is when you are moving large muscles for an extended period with some kind of rhythmic repetition to the movements. Doing aerobic activity makes your heart pump faster.

Aerobic exercise can be moderate intensity or vigorous intensity. What’s the difference? Exercise is “moderate” if it’s raising your heart rate and you’re breathing harder. Another indication is if you can talk while doing the activity, but you can’t sing the words to a song.

Here are some moderate-intensity aerobic activities you might enjoy:

  • Walking briskly
  • Riding a bike
  • Dancing
  • Swimming

With vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, you won’t be able to say more than a few words before you need to pause for breath.

Vigorous aerobic activities might include:

  • Singles tennis
  • Running/jogging
  • Playing basketball

Flex your muscles

You should also try to do muscle-strengthening (also called resistance) exercises on two or more non-consecutive days every week. These should work the muscles in your legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms. Strength training includes exercises such as:

  • Lifting weights
  • Working with resistance bands
  • Using your body weight for resistance (pushups, situps)
  • Heavy gardening, including digging and shoveling
  • Yoga

Everyday activities count

Getting exercise doesn’t have to entail a gym membership. Every time you walk the dog, mow the lawn, or play with the kids or grandkids, you’re benefitting from being active. Even an hour’s worth of physical activity per week can have some health benefits. But try to do the recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) for best results. And if you go beyond the recommended 150 minutes, the benefits to your heart increase, too.

If you haven’t been active, start gradually with light or moderate exercise for short periods of time. You can increase your activity level over the next several days and weeks. The important thing is to get up and move whenever you can.

Talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level. Ask about the amounts and types of activities that might be best for you.

By Laura Grathwol, Contributing Writer

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. 2018 physical activity guidelines for Americans. Accessed November 22, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical ativities basics. Accessed November 22, 2019.
American Heart Association. No time for exercise? Try our top 10 tips to get more! Accessed Accessed November 22, 2019.

Updated Accessed November 11, 2019