his shouldn’t be news to any of our
readers: Being physically active is
beneficial for cardiovascular health.
In fact, there is so much credible
science available about that subject
that the American Heart Association
has specific recommendations
for how much we should all try
to achieve: At least 150 minutes per week of moderate
exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a
combination of moderate and vigorous activity).
So, if we all know this, why is it so challenging for so
many of us to take those first steps to becoming regularly
physically active? About two-thirds of kids and half of
adults in the U.S. don’t get enough physical activity —
and three out of 10 adults don’t get ANY exercise. What’s
standing in our way?
“I don’t have enough time”
There are plenty of tips and strategies for overcoming
time constraints, but before we get to that, let’s talk about
priorities. Most of us have time to do what we consider
most important to us. There is no mystery to it. No, we have
that time because we make that time — we arrange and
re-arrange; we say no; we ignore temptation; we defend it
against other demands — we prioritize.
Any physical activity is a good thing, but it is the habit
of exercise that creates the greatest changes to your health.
In order for something to become a habit, you are probably
going to have to make it a priority. You are going to have
to put out some effort, and the first thing you should do if
you’re a heart patient or have any specific medical question
is talk with your doctor about what is safe for you and what
you are capable of doing physically.
Here’s a strategy to get started — make 30 minutes of
activity most days of the week a priority for one month.
Before you start the timer on that, monitor your daily
activities for a week and identify at least five 30-minute time
slots you could use for physical activity. Almost certainly,
you will have to juggle and compromise, just as with any
new priority. Next, do whatever you need to do to make it
happen — workout clothes in the car; walking shoes at the
office; shorter lunch so you can walk some then; buy some
free weights; join a nearby fitness center or YMCA; make a
verbal commitment to someone. After a month (at least 20
sessions), evaluate how you feel.
Most people feel much better, which reinforces you’re
resolve to continue the habit. Not only will you feel better,
you have also proven to yourself that you do, in fact, have
the time. Now the issue is: Will you defend that time against
other things that demand your attention?
Timely reframe: Recovering from a heart attack (or any
sickness) takes time. If you exercise, you reduce the chances
that you will be sick or, if you do get sick, the amount of
time you are down. So, regular physical activity has great
potential to ultimately save you time … and misery.
Tips for making exercise happen:
• Park at the back of the lot wherever you go.
• Take the stairs when it’s just a few floors.
• Get a treadmill or stationary bicycle and exercise while
you watch TV.
• Make an appointment for physical activity and put it on
• Wear sneakers that fit.
• Wear loose-fitting clothing that is comfortable and
appropriate for the weather and the activity you are
• Start slowly and build gradually to at least 30 minutes
of moderate-intensity activity on most or all days of the
week (or whatever your doctor recommends).
• Work out at the same time of day so it becomes a habit.
• Find a convenient time and a nearby place to do your 30
• Be flexible. If you miss your normal time, work some
activity into your day another way. If life events cause
you to stop for a while, start gradually and work up to
your old pace.
Caveat: “No pain, no gain” is a prescription for injury!
The goal is to integrate activity into your lifestyle, so you
have plenty of time to reach any milestone you set.
Make an appointment for physical activity
and put it on your calendar.