Short Workouts Can Be Good for Your Heart

Don't avoid exercising because you're short on time. Even quick workouts can benefit your health.

How much exercise do you need to help prevent heart disease? Do you need an hour breaking a sweat at the gym? Or will a walk around the block suffice?

Most people know that exercise is important to health. The American Heart Association recommends that all adults do some form of physical activity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Thankfully, you can break up this activity into 15-minute sessions if that works better for you, fitness experts say.

It's true that exercise such as brisk walking or aerobics may yield great health benefits. But even moderate-intensity activities like walking for pleasure, doing yard work or dancing may help you lower your risk for heart disease.

How 15 minutes can help
You don't need to be an athlete to enjoy the health benefits of exercise. Short bursts of activity can help your heart, too. And most people should be able to carve out 15 minutes a couple times a day to be active.

Doctors aren't exactly sure why exercise helps, but it has been shown to raise the level of HDL cholesterol - the so-called good kind - in the blood. High HDL levels have been shown to help protect against heart disease.

Exercise is also thought to make the endothelial cells that line our arteries healthier. These cells are vital in preventing the clogging and hardening of the arteries.

Always check with your doctor before you start any kind of exercise program, though.

 Making quick workouts count
Aerobic exercise is what hearts like best. It helps the heart become stronger and work more efficiently.

You can get an aerobic workout from numerous activities, such as:

  • Biking
  • Brisk walking, jogging or running
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Jumping rope
  • Using exercise machines like the treadmill, stationary bike, rowing machine or stair climber

What's most important is simply that you get moving! It can be overwhelming to know where to start if you haven't exercised much before. So talk with your doctor to find a level of activity that is safe for you. In addition to doing what you typically think of as "exercise," you can also get aerobic workout benefits in your daily life. House cleaning or gardening can raise your heart rate. Seasonal recreational sports like ice skating, soccer and beach volleyball can also help get your heart pumping while you're doing something fun at the same time.