Even after decades of awareness campaigns, heart disease remains the #1 killer of Americans. Many of us have been taught since childhood which habits to embrace and avoid to protect heart health. And you might think you’re doing enough, but chances are you’re among the 80% of Americans who are engaging in this common habit that can lead to heart disease. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.

woman lying on sofa and watching tv.

Heart disease has many causes, but experts agree that one habit that’s all too common can lead to heart disease: Living a sedentary lifestyle and not getting regular exercise.

As for the all-too-common thing: A 2018 study published in JAMA found that 80% of Americans don’t get enough exercise—and that was before the pandemic shut down gyms and kept many of us on the couch and in front of the computer instead of on our feet.

Research has found that being sedentary and not getting enough exercise can raise your risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol—all conditions that can, in turn, raise your risk of developing heart disease. 

Exercise and physical activity are about the closest things you have to magic bullets against heart disease and other chronic conditions,” says Harvard Medical School. “Any amount of activity is better than none.”

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Side view of active young female in sportswear doing exercises lunges with dumbbells and watching video on laptop during fitness workout at home

Among the many studies indicating that exercise lowers heart risk: A 2018 Stanford University study observing nearly half a million people, which found that being physically active reduced the risk of heart disease—even in those who were genetically predisposed to the condition. 

“Among those considered at high genetic risk for heart disease, high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with a 49 percent lower risk for coronary heart disease and a 60 percent lower risk for atrial fibrillation compared with study participants with low cardiorespiratory fitness,” the university said.

But how much exercise is optimal?

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exercise stopwatch

Experts including the American Heart Association recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, each week (ideally spread throughout the week) along with two sessions of muscle-strengthening exercise.

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2 stairs walking workout

According to the AHA, examples of moderate-intensity activity include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Leisurely biking
  • Gardening
  • Dancing
  • Doubles tennis

RELATED: Everyday Habits That May Lead to Heart Attack


Examples of vigorous activity include:

  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Rowing
  • Fast cycling
  • Hiking uphill
  • Jumping rope
  • Singles tennis

Muscle-strengthening activity can be exercises performed with weights, weight machines, resistance bands or your own body weight.

“For maximum benefits, include both moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity in your routine along with strengthening and stretching exercises,” says the American Heart Association.

And remember that every bit counts: Even taking short walks, or an extra few flights of stairs instead of the elevator, can add up. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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