Q: I know I should change my couch potato ways. How exactly is exercise good for the heart?

A: February is American Heart Month, a time when everyone is encouraged to focus on their cardiovascular health. Regular exercise is essential to a heart-healthy lifestyle, with positive effects that go way beyond weight management.

First and foremost, exercise strengthens the heart muscle. Beating inside your chest is a powerful organ responsible for pumping blood throughout the entire body, delivering essential oxygen and nutrients from your brain to your toes. When we exercise, the demand for oxygen increases, prompting the heart to work more efficiently. Over time, exercise enhances the heart’s ability to pump blood and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) — the number one killer of Americans.

Let’s talk body weight. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight — critically important for heart health. Obesity is a significant risk factor for heart disease, as excess body weight can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Regular physical activity helps us manage our weight effectively, reducing the burden on the heart and decreasing the likelihood of developing these risk factors.

How’s your blood pressure? High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common precursor to heart disease. Exercise can help there, too! Regular physical activity helps dilate blood vessels, improving blood flow and promoting more efficient circulation. This lowers blood pressure levels and reduces the strain on the heart.

Cholesterol levels respond positively to exercise as well. High levels of LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries, restricting blood flow and increasing the risk of heart disease. On the flip side, regular exercise raises HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein), which helps remove LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream. This balance is crucial for maintaining clear arteries and a healthy cardiovascular system.

So how much exercise do you need to for heart health? The American Heart Association recommends “at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity (or a combination of both), preferably spread throughout the week.” Their other recommendations include moving more, with more intensity, and sitting less, along with adding muscle through twice-weekly resistance training.

Your heart beats about 100,000 times a day (yes, you read that right) and will keep on beating as long as it has oxygen. So, help your heart by getting regular exercise! To learn more, join me February 9 for Senior Health Friday. RSVP online or by calling 321-751-6771.


One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging. Lisa Conway is a Registered Nurse, Certified Dementia Practitioner and a Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services, Viera. Ms. Conway hosts a monthly seminar, ‘Senior Health Friday with Nurse Lisa.’