Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health

Updated May 8, 2019 | Infoplease Staff
  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the No. 1 killer in America. About 700,000 Americans died last year of CVD, accounting for over 29% of all deaths.
  • Lack of physical activity is clearly shown to be a risk factor for coronary heart disease.
  • The relative risk of coronary heart disease associated with physical inactivity ranges from 1.5 to 2.4, an increase in risk comparable with that observed for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and cigarette smoking.
  • Less active, less fit persons have a 30–50% greater risk of developing high blood pressure.
  • Participation in regular physical activity gradually increased during the 1960s, '70s, and early '80s, but seems to have leveled off in recent years.
  • Surveys show that 28% of Americans age 18 or older aren't active at all. 44% of adults get some exercise, but they don't do it regularly or intensely enough to protect their hearts. Only 27% of American adults get enough leisure-time exercise to achieve cardiovascular fitness.
  • People with lower incomes and less than a 12th grade education are more likely to be physically inactive.
  • Of people age 55 and older, 38% report essentially sedentary lifestyles.
  • Even low-to-moderate intensity activities, when done for as little as 30 minutes a day, can bring benefits. These activities include pleasure walking, climbing stairs, gardening, yard work, moderate-to-heavy housework, dancing, and home exercise.
  • More vigorous aerobic activities, such as brisk walking, running, swimming, bicycling, roller skating, and jumping rope—done most days of the week for at least 30 minutes—are best for improving the fitness of the heart and lungs.

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