A healthy cardiovascular system is high on the list of benefits that come from an active lifestyle. You’re not just strengthening your heart, you’re also supporting a healthy blood and oxygen flow, keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels down, reducing insulin resistance and strengthening the immune system ? all of which are vital to increasing longevity.
The American Heart Association’s minimum recommendation for adults is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. It also recommends at least two days a week of muscle-strengthening activity (resistance-building or weight-lifting exercises).
To achieve this weekly goal, you don’t necessarily have to participate in what we think of as standard “cardio” fitness, like running, swimming or cycling. Those are certainly wonderful options, but there are several effective ways to get your heart rate up for the recommended amount of time ? some of which you might not even think of as exercise.
“Basically, what research has shown is any activity that can increase the heart rate to be in that kind of moderate intensity zone is going to be considered enough aerobic activity to help be protective of the heart,” said Jennifer Soo Hoo, an assistant professor of clinical rehabilitation medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Here’s what heart health experts recommend:
Walking at a pace of 3 to 4 miles per hour should be brisk enough to target the moderate-intensity cardiovascular zone for the average adult, according to Soo Hoo.
Walking is also pretty accessible and low impact, meaning it’s easy on your joints and your likelihood of injury is fairly minimal compared with jogging or other high-intensity exercises. And you’re still reaping many of the same health benefits.
With brisk walking ? and any activity on this list ? there are a few ways to measure whether you’re amply exerting yourself to achieve a cardiovascular benefit. The easiest way is using a wearable device. If you have a product such as an Apple Watch or a FitBit, it will record your pulse and tell you how long your heart rate was in that moderate-intensity zone.