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Good news about exercise for inactive people

Greater improvement possible for those just starting out

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If you’re inactive, starting and following an exercise program can bring about more significant health benefits than for someone who’s already fit.

If you tend to be inactive, but are thinking about getting fit, you may be interested to know that starting and consistently following an exercise program can bring about more significant health benefits than those achieved by someone who’s fit (it becomes more difficult to improve when already fit).

According to Theresa Gracik, director of the University of Michigan Preventive Cardiology Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, “The more de-conditioned you are, the more you can improve your health through exercise.” And, she says, older individuals (65+) who become fit make big strides toward improving their health and lifespan.

Studies show that regular exercise will bring improvements to cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and improve metabolism and levels of cholesterol and triglycerides — all important benefits for heart health.

Gracik recommends participating in a strength-training program at least twice a week, adding aerobic exercise as much as possible throughout the week (30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week). She also advises individuals to conduct a self-assessment, such as the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Results from this assessment suggest whether you should consult with a health-care provider before starting an exercise program.

Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire

  1. Has your doctor ever said that you have a heart condition and that you should only do physical activity recommended by a doctor?
  2. Do you feel pain in your chest when you do physical activity?
  3. In the past month, have you had chest pain when you were not doing physical activity?
  4. Do you lose your balance because of dizziness or do you ever lose consciousness?
  5. Do you have a bone or joint problem (for example, back, knee or hip) that could be made worse by a change in your physical activity?
  6. Is your doctor currently prescribing drugs (for example, water pills) for your blood pressure or heart condition?
  7. Do you know of any other reason you should not do physical activity?

According to the ACSM, if you answered yes to one or more of these questions, see your health-care professional before you becoming physically active.

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University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center Logo - blueThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit the Heart and Vascular page on UofMHealth.org.