Exercise and Fitness

Being active is key to having a healthy heart. A great goal is aiming to be active in as many ways as possible throughout the day and reduce the amount of sitting for long periods. 

Exercise and Fitness

Doing just 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, even in 10 minute chunks, can help to reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes as well as reducing your risk of developing a stroke and high blood pressure.

Along with healthy eating and not smoking, physical activity improves heart health by preventing heart disease as well as helping you to recover if you have had a heart event. For information on staying active with heart disease visit our website firststeps.hearthelp.org.nz for some great information about excercise tailored specifically towards people who have had a heart attack. 


Why be active?

Your heart is a muscle and needs exercise to help keep it fit so that it can pump blood efficiently around your body. Without regular physical activity, the body slowly loses its strength, stamina and ability to function well.

Lifelong physical activity, such as a brisk walk for as little as 30 minutes a day, is important for:

  • Preventing heart disease
  • Lowering your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke
  • Helping to fight the battle to quit smoking
  • Aiding cardiac rehabilitation
  • Establishing good heart healthy habits in children
  • Building stronger immunity
  • Reducing blood pressure in people who already have high blood pressure
  • Helping to reduce stress, tension, depression and anxiety
  • Helping to control weight
  • Improving overall health and wellbeing, prolonging your optimal health

For each hour of regular exercise you get, you’ll gain about two hours of additional life expectancy, even if you don’t start until middle age!


How do I start?

It’s never too late to start. Everyone can benefit from moving more – whatever your age, size or physical condition. The good news is that inactive people that start to do moderate physical activity feel the biggest health benefits – your health risks will decrease as soon as you start to move!

Getting started is easier than you think. Changing a few daily habits can soon add up to a more active you. Be active in as many ways as possible every day. Every 10 minutes counts. And if you don’t think you can squeeze anything else into your day, see if you can reduce the time you spend sitting still and free up time to be active.

  • Start in small amounts
  • Find an activity that you enjoy doing
  • Ask family or a friend to join you
  • Set yourself a realistic target to do a little exercise each day
  • Gradually increase the amount you are doing. Go for a little longer or a little further
  • Build up to 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day.


How do I stay safe while exercising?

  • If you are new to exercise or haven't exercised for some time, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor first before starting an exercise programme. 
  • Wear comfortable clothing and appropriate footwear
  • Warm up and cool down. When you begin your activity, begin slowly for the first few minutes and build up gradually. When coming to the end of your activity, take time to slow down
  • Stretch after your exercise. This will help you to avoid pain and stiffness in your joints and muscles.
  • Avoid exercising if you are feeling unwell
  • Remember, it’s best to stop exercising if you feel any pain or discomfort.


What type of activity is good for my heart?

Walking is a great option. Nearly everyone can do it, and all you need is a pair of shoes. You could go swimming, take exercise classes or play a sport, but physical activity also includes everyday things like gardening and climbing stairs.

Remember, any increase in physical activity will be good for your health. You’ll get added benefits by including activities that help strengthen muscles twice a week, such as exercising with weights, working with resistance bands, heavy gardening or carrying shopping.

You should aim to build up to a total of 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate intensity activity each week. Moderate intensity activity will make you feel warmer, breathe harder and make your heart beat faster than usual, but you should still be able to carry on a conversation.

Many health problems can be helped by regular physical activity, but if you do have a health problem, or have a condition that you are taking prescribed medication for, you should check the amount and type of activity that is suitable for you with your GP.

The best way to tell if the exercise you are doing is working is to take the talk test. Watch the video below to see what the talk test is.

Click here to learn about sitting less and moving more

Next steps

  1. Do at least 30 minutes of exercise a day
  2. Ask your doctor or practice nurse about a Green Prescription. A Green Prescription gives you access to support and advice on increasing your physical activity.

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