3 Things You Didn’t Know about Exercise and Heart Health

When it comes to heart health, exercise is one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself. You probably have regular exercise on your list of goals, or at least of things you want to do someday.

But there are always new discoveries in health. Here are three important pieces of information about exercise that you might not have heard about yet.

Even a little exercise is beneficial

The World Health Organization and other experts recommend at least 150 minutes of exercise each week — about 30 minutes a day. Some of us look at that recommendation and feel like we just can’t fit it into our busy lives. Work, kids, aged relatives, household chores, and volunteering, not to mention dating or hobbies, fill up our time already.

Some people just decide that they can’t reach that goal and give up.

But Harvard Medical School reports that just 15 minutes a day of moderate exercise or 8 minutes of vigorous exercise can increase longevity. There is also research showing that small bursts of movement throughout the day can be beneficial. Use the Pomodoro Method to break up your workday (or video gaming, for that matter) into 25-minute focused time with 5 to 15-minute movement breaks. 

Use the breaks to move, whether that’s climbing stairs or having yourself a little dance party, and you’ll be doing something good for your health.

There’s no point of diminishing returns

Often, a little bit is good but too much is not so good. A cup of coffee is good for you, but eight cups a day is too much. You can even eat too much fiber (though it’s not easy). But physical exercise is always good for you, and more is better. 

Recent research followed more than 90,000 people and measured the amount of time they spent in physical activity. Five years later, researchers looked for cardiovascular disease. People who were more active were less likely to have heart disease.

People who exercised regularly had half the chance of experiencing heart disease of those who didn’t exercise much at all. The people in the top quarter of exercisers — the ones who moved the most — had a 63% lower chance of developing cardiovascular disease.

So, if you exercise regularly, keep it up! In fact, go ahead and increase your exercise time a little bit. Every little bit helps!

Exercising in the evening doesn’t spoil sleep

For many years we’ve been told that exercising at night gets in the way of restful sleep. New research suggests that this isn’t true. Working out 60 to 90 minutes before sleep doesn’t interfere with sleep quality. 

This matters because getting into the habit of exercising can be more about problem-solving than motivation. 

If you’re not a morning person, or your morning is chock full of getting your kids ready for school and yourself ready for work, you might have trouble fitting in a morning workout. If you worry that you won’t be able to sleep, you might cross off evening workouts, too, making it very hard to fit in exercise.

Sleep is extremely important for your health, but an evening walk or swim can actually leave you feeling relaxed and ready for bed. Home gym time after the kids are in bed can become a very satisfying habit. Give it a try!

The bottom line

It’s easy to feel that we just don’t have enough time to exercise, but these new research findings should help us shut down that excuse. It’s worth exercising even if you can only carve out a short time, it’s good for you to exercise more than the minimum, and you can get moving in the evening if that’s more convenient. Your heart health depends on it!