Choose to move for a healthy heart

A variety of physical activities are suitable for modifying blood cholesterol and lipoprotein levels. They include walking, playing outdoor games with your children or grandchildren, walking the dog, mowing the lawn, doing leisure activities such as gardening or carpentry work, and using the stairs in your office or apartment building rather than using the elevator.

Developing an active lifestyle means finding time in your day for these activities, but don’t let time be a barrier. Incorporating more walking into your daily routine can easily be accomplished without requiring much additional time. For example, you can park your car farther away from the building where you work and walk the additional distance to your office. You can also walk more at work. Simply using the stairs rather than an elevator to move from floor to floor adds to your daily activity. Another consideration is whether your work facility is spread across several buildings. For example, I am employed at a large urban university that has a spacious campus. During each day I often have meetings in buildings on different parts of the campus, and I walk to these eetings. By the time I move from one building to another building and return, I usually walk a mile or more.

Adding more walking is an easy way to add physical activity to your daily routine, but you may ask yourself whether these small walking periods each day yield health benefits. You bet they do! Some of these daily activity additions seem small, but when all are put together, they add up to major amounts of physical activity that moves you toward increased daily activity and important health benefits.

Another means to increase your daily physical activity is to engage in hobbies or activities that you enjoy such as walking the dog, doing yard work, gardening, or doing carpentry. Is walking the dog really good for you? The answer is yes, and walking is also good for the dog. What about mowing the lawn and working in the garden? Again, the answer is yes for both, although if you ride the lawn mower or you sit while doing the garden work you will do little physical activity and will not gain health benefits. In addition, physical activity must reach a certain intensity level to provide health benefits. As we discussed in chapter 3, the exercise intensity for reaching health benefits must be at least moderate, but vigorous physical activity can result in greater health benefits than moderate physical activity.

Let’s consider for a minute the concept of activity intensity. The three levels of intensity are light, moderate, and vigorous.

• Light physical activity is any activity more strenuous than sleeping and less strenuous than a brisk walk.

• Moderate physical activity is represented by activities such as brisk walking and is about three to six metabolic equivalents (METs) of work. Metabolic equivalents are a measurement of work and the body’s ability to consume oxygen. One MET is equal to the amount of oxygen consumed at rest. When doing moderate activity, you should be able to walk at a pace of three to four miles per hour.

• Vigorous physical activity is any activity that requires work greater than six METs. This kind of activity includes jogging at a pace greater than five miles per hour.

Regular involvement in moderate and vigorous physical activities provides important health benefits. The next step is to set your first short-term goal. This goal should focus on changing your daily routines so that you increase your physical activity. For example, your first short-term goal could be to modify your lifestyle and incorporate more walking into your daily activities during the next two weeks.

This goal can be easily accomplished by parking your car farther away from your workplace and using the stairs rather than the elevator. Don’t limit yourself to adding activity at your place of work, though. You can also increase your daily physical activity when going to places such as shopping malls. At a mall you can park your car at quite a distance from where you enter the mall, and when you move from floor to floor of the mall use the stairs.

From Action Plan for High Cholesterol by J. Larry Durstine, PhD.
Excerpted by permission of Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL. Available to order at or by calling 1-800-465-7301.