exercise heart disease

How exercise can help reduce your risk of heart disease

Accredited Exercise Physiologist Emma Young from Inform Exercise takes us through the reasons why exercise is so important in reducing the risks of heart disease and provides some practical tips on how to get started on your physical activity journey.

Firstly, what is heart disease?

Heart disease is an umbrella term that covers a variety of diseases that affect the heart. These diseases include coronary artery disease, abnormal heart rhythms or arrhythmias, heart valve disease, heart failure and cardiomyopathies. A great place to get a good understanding of heart disease is through The Heart Foundation.

Risk factors of heart disease?

Risk factors for heart disease can be broken down into two categories. We call these controllable and uncontrollable. Some of these risk factors include:

Uncontrollable Risk Factors

  • Increased age
  • Being a man
  • Family history of heart disease

Controllable Risk Factors

  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Physical activity levels

How can exercise help reduce the risk of heart disease and why is it important?

When taking steps to reduce the risk of heart disease it is important to make as many changes that impact those controllable risks as possible.

One of the key controllable risks that can be changed by you instantly is inactivity. By reducing your inactivity levels and completing purposeful exercise you aren’t just eliminating the inactivity risk factor, you are also impacting multiple other risk factors. For example, did you know that exercise has been shown to:

  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Reduce blood cholesterol
  • Support weight loss
  • Improve insulin sensitivity to help reduce the risk of diabetes, or better control diabetes
  • Help to manage stress

The big questions, so how much exercise should I do?

The official recommended guidelines for exercise include completing resistance-based exercise 2-3 days per week at a moderate to vigorous intensity that targets each major muscle group. You should aim to complete 2-4 sets of 8-15 repetitions dependent on training goals.

Resistance based exercises can include using exercise equipment however, if you don’t have access to equipment don’t let that stop you as there are plenty of exercises that use just your body weight, click here to check some out!

For aerobic or cardiovascular exercises you should aim to complete around 5 days of moderate intensity exercise for 30 – 60 minutes per day or around 3 days of vigorous intensity exercise for 20 – 60 minutes per day.

You can also do a combination of both moderate and vigorous exercise. Aerobic exercise can include moderate paced walking, running, cycling and swimming (e.g. anything that makes you ‘huff and puff’) to name a few.

We would also suggest completing flexibility training on at least 2-3 days per week. Stretch to the point slight tightness and hold for 10-30 seconds. You should aim to stretch all of the major muscle groups and this can be done via static or dynamic stretching.

Of course these guidelines are general and if you have any health concerns or injuries you should talk to an accredited exercise professional to before taking on additional exercise. You can find one here.

Where do I start?

Now that you have information on how much exercise you should be doing, figuring out where to start is next.

No matter what the guidelines are, it is important that you find a type of exercise that you enjoy and that will keep you motivated to continue. Some other ideas to keep in mind are:

  • Start small and the build it up. Perhaps begin with 20 minutes per day? Even 20 minutes can be beneficial especially if you haven’t been active in a while
  • Set smart goals that are realistic and achievable
  • Exercise with a friend as studies show an exercise buddy will keep you on track
  • Keep an exercise diary to keep you on track


If you’d like some ideas of workouts you can complete at home – check out our Exercise Right at Home page for some inspiration.

Remember, before you start exercising it is always a good idea to talk to your doctor if you are living with a heart disease as this must be managed properly. They can ensure that it will be safe for you to begin.

If you are finding it difficult to start exercising or staying motivated, or if you have any other health conditions that may be impacted by exercise then consulting with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist may be a good approach for you. They will be able to educate you on how you can benefit from exercise.

They will also be able to prescribe you a program that is based on you, your health concerns and your goals so that you can achieve that best health outcome possible!


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