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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 making exercise happen during a busy day? It may be easier than you think.

Move more, sit less. You choose how.

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. Any amount of activity will help lower your risk for serious conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease. You choose when and how to get your heart pumping and flex your muscles. Just make sure you move more every day and spend less time sitting.

Get your heart pumping faster

Aerobic activity is great for making your heart pump faster. Aerobic exercise is when you move large muscles for an extended period with some kind of rhythmic repetition to the movements.

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 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 (push-ups, sit-ups)
  • Heavy gardening, including digging and shoveling
  • Some forms of yoga

Activate your everyday

Getting exercise doesn’t have to entail a gym membership. Every time you walk the dog, mow the lawn or physically play with your kids or grandkids, you benefit from being active. You can even try adding in a little more activity to your daily life. For example:

  • Walk to the store instead of driving
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Exercise for a few minutes at your desk with squats or leg lifts
  • Wash your car by hand instead of taking it to a car wash
  • Try an activity like bowling, ice skating or kickball in the park

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 may be best for you.

By Laura Grathwol, Contributing Writer

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. 2018 physical activity guidelines for Americans. Accessed December 23, 2021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adding physical activity to your life. Accessed December 23, 2021.
American Heart Association. No time for exercise? Try our top 10 tips to get more! Accessed December 23, 2021.

Updated Accessed December 28, 2021