Most everyone is aware that exercise is good for the heart, but did you know that lack of exercise is one of the risk factors for developing heart disease? Several years ago, the American Heart Association added inactivity to its list of risk factors, which also includes family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. If you are currently inactive, try to include at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, such as walking or gardening, on most days of the week. If you can’t fit in a single session, split up your activity into three 10-minute blocks spread throughout your day. 1. Cardiovascular exercise improves blood circulation, which may help reduce the risk of developing clots or blockages in the arteries. 2. Like the muscles of the body, the heart is a muscle, and regular exercise helps keep it toned and strong. As the heart becomes stronger, the heart rate lowers because fewer beats are required to pump the same amount of blood. 3. Exercise can help reduce or prevent high blood pressure in some people. 4. Research shows that exercise can raise HDL levels, the so-called “good” cholesterol, which has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. 5. Exercise reduces the risk of developing diabetes, which is a risk factor for heart disease. 6. People who exercise are less likely to smoke. Several studies have confirmed that if you’re a smoker and find it difficult to quit, exercise can still be beneficial. In fact, smokers who are fit may have a lower risk of heart disease than nonsmokers who are sedentary. 7. People who exercise tend to have healthier diets. Being active often compels people to make other positive lifestyle changes, such as eating less fat and more fiber. 8. Along with a healthy diet, exercise can aid in weight control. Being overweight or obese has been linked to numerous diseases, including diabetes, and regularly burning calories makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight. 9. Exercise has been proven to help manage stress, which can take its toll on the whole body, but especially the heart. People who exercise tend to be less depressed and posses a more positive outlook. 10. Exercise strengthens muscles and improves mobility, which makes it easier to perform activities of daily living. The easier these activities are, the more active one is likely to be overall.