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Physical Activity and Heart Disease

Published by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's (NHLBI)
Obesity Education Initiative

Test how much you know about how physical activity affects your heart. Mark each question true or false. See how you did by clicking on the blue links to see the answers.

1 TF . Regular physical activity can reduce your chances of getting heart disease.

2 TF . Most people get enough physical activity from their normal daily routine.

3 TF. You don t have to train like a marathon runner to become more physically fit.

4 TF. Exercise programs do not require a lot of time to be very effective.

5 TF. People who need to lose some weight are the only ones who will benefit from regular physical activity.

6 TF. All exercises give you the same benefits.

7 TF. The older you are, the less active you need to be.

8 TF. It doesn't take a lot of money or expensive equipment to become physically fit.

9 TF . There are many risks and injuries that can occur with exercise.

10 TF . You should always consult a doctor before starting a physical activity program.

11 TF. People who have had a heart attack should not start any physical activity program.

12 TF. To help stay physically active, include a variety of activities.

Answers to the Check Your Physical Activity and Heart Disease I.Q.

1 True. Heart disease is almost twice as likely to develop in inactive people. Being physically inactive is a risk factor for heart disease along with cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and being overweight. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chance for heart disease. Regular physical activity (even mild to moderate exercise) can reduce this risk.

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2 False. Most Americans are very busy but not very active. Every American adult should make a habit of getting 30 minutes of low to moderate levels of physical activity daily. This includes walking, gardening, and walking up stairs. If you are inactive now, begin by doing a few minutes of activity each day. If you only do some activity every once in a while, try to work something into your routine everyday.

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3 True. Low- to moderate-intensity activities, such as pleasure walking, stair climbing, yardwork, moderate to heavy housework, dancing, and home exercises can have both short- and long-term benefits. If you are inactive, the key is to get started. One great way is to take a walk for 10 to 15 minutes during your lunch break, or take your dog for a walk every day. At least 30 minutes of physical activity every day can help improve your heart health and lower your risk of heart disease.

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4 True. It takes only a few minutes a day to become more physically active. If you don t have 30 minutes in your schedule for an exercise break, try to find two 15-minute periods or even three 10-minute periods. Once you discover how much you enjoy these exercise breaks, they'll become a habit you can't live without.

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5 False. People who engage in regular physical activity experience many positive benefits. Regular physical activity gives you more energy, reduces stress, helps you to relax, and helps you to sleep better. It helps to lower high blood pressure and improves blood cholesterol levels. Physical activity helps to tone your muscles, burns off calories to help you lose extra pounds or stay at your desirable weight, and helps control your appetite. It can also increase muscle strength, help your heart and lungs work more efficiently, and let you enjoy your life more fully.

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6 False. Low-intensity activities--if performed daily--can have some long-term health benefits and can lower your risk of heart disease. Regular, brisk, and sustained exercise for at least 30 minutes, three to four times a week, such as brisk walking, jogging, or swimming, is necessary to improve the efficiency of your heart and lungs and burn off extra calories. These kinds of activities are called aerobic--meaning the body uses oxygen to produce the energy needed for the activity. Other activities may give you other benefits such as increased flexibility or muscle strength, depending on the type of activity.

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7 False. Although we tend to become less active with age, physical activity is still important. In fact, regular physical activity in older persons increases their capacity to do everyday activities. In general, middle-aged and older people benefit from regular physical activity just as young people do. What is important, no matter what your age, is tailoring the activity program to your own fitness level.

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8 True. Many activities require little or no equipment. For example, brisk walking only requires a comfortable pair of walking shoes. Also, many communities offer free or inexpensive recreation facilities and physical activity classes. Check your shopping malls, as many of them are open early and late for people who do not wish to walk alone, in the dark, or in bad weather.

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9 False. The most common risk in exercising is injury to the muscles and joints. Such injuries are usually caused by exercising too hard for too long, particularly if a person has been inactive for some time. To avoid injuries, try to build up your level of activity gradually, listen to your body for early warning pains, be aware of possible signs of heart problems (such as pain or pressure in the left or mid-chest area, left neck, shoulder, or arm during or just after exercising, or sudden light- headedness, cold sweat, pallor, or fainting), and be prepared for special weather conditions.

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10 True. You should ask your doctor before you start (or greatly increase) your physical activity if you have a medical condition such as high blood pressure, have pains or pressure in the chest and shoulder area, tend to feel dizzy or faint, get very breathless after mild exertion, are middle-age or older and have not been physically active, or plan a fairly vigorous activity program. If none of these apply, start slow and get moving.

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11 False. Regular, physical activity can help reduce your risk of having another heart attack. People who include regular physical activity in their lives after a heart attack improve their chances of survival and can improve how they feel and look. If you have had a heart attack, consult your doctor to be sure you are following a safe and effective exercise program that will help prevent heart pain and further damage from overexertion.

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12 True. Pick several different activities that you like doing because you will be more likely to stay with it. Plan short-term as well as long-term goals. Keep a record of your progress, and check it regularly to see the progress you have made. Get your family and friends to join in. They can help keep you going.

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NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative
National Heart, Lung, & Blood Institute
NIH Publication No. 95-3795, May 1995

for more info visit the US NIH website at:

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