Heart Health3 min read

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God. You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV).

Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease, characterized by deposits of fatty substances (e.g., cholesterol), calcium, and other substances in the lining of the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle itself. Physical inactivity also contributes to other health risks such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and low levels of HDL (high density lipoproteins, the “good cholesterol”). The American Heart Association has documented that even moderately intense exercise such as brisk walking is beneficial when done regularly for 30 minutes or longer five to seven days a week. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Harvard Alumni Study found that people lived two hours longer for every hour of regular exercise they did! Two for one … a simple formula for better health.

Why is Exercise Important?

Regular physical activity increases your fitness level and capacity for exercise, and plays a role in prevention of heart disease. Regular activity can help control blood cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. Aerobic physical activity can also help reduce blood pressure. Many studies have shown that people who modify risky behaviors and start regular activity, even after a heart attack, have better rates of survival and better quality of life!

How can Physical Fitness be Improved?

Programs designed to improve physical fitness take into account frequency, intensity, and time. This is what we refer to as the FIT formula:

F = frequency (days per week that you exercise)

I = intensity (how hard, e.g., easy, moderate, or vigorous)

= time (amount for each exercise session or day)

Activities that are especially beneficial when done regularly include: walking, hiking, jogging, bicycling, swimming, soccer, and basketball. Even moderately intense activities, when done daily, can have some long-term health benefits. Examples include walking for pleasure, gardening/yard work, housework, dancing, and prescribed home exercise programs.

Types of Exercise

Aerobics – (also known as cardio) using a large number of muscle groups for a duration of at least 20 minutes; the goal is to be working hard enough to increase your heart rate to 60-75% of its maximum, and repeat this activity at least three times a week for 20 minutes.

Strength training – lifting a heavy object 8-10 times before feeling muscle fatigue. This helps preserve bone and muscle mass. Do 3 sets of 10 for each muscle group 2-3 times a week.

Balance and flexibility training – before and after any kind of exercise, we should stretch our muscles. Particularly with the elderly, balance and flexibility training can improve coordination and reduce the likelihood of falls and bone fractures.

What Risk Factors can be Reduced?

  • high blood pressure – through diet/exercise
  • cigarette smoking – talk with your doctor
  • diabetes – physical activity may also decrease insulin requirements for people with diabetes
  • obesity – regular exercise can help people lose excess fat and stay at a reasonable weight
  • high triglyceride levels – physical activity helps reduce the risk for coronary artery disease
  • low HDL levels (low levels of this “good cholesterol,” i.e., less than 40 mg/dL for men, less than 50 mg/dL for women, have been linked to a higher risk of coronary artery disease. Recent studies show that regular physical activity can significantly increase HDL cholesterol levels and reduce your risk).

Check with your doctor or other healthcare provider if you have a heart condition, have had a stroke, feel extremely short of breath after mild exercise, or have been told that you have a medical condition that could be made worse by increased activity. If none of these conditions apply to you, you can start on a gradual program of increased activity tailored to your needs and interests.

Parish Nurses tailor their duties to fit the needs of their congregations and communities. Their responsibilities may include: health education, personal health counseling, liaison to community health resources, coordinator of volunteers, and integrator of faith and healing. For more information, visit

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