Physical Activity

Exercise/Physical Activity
Physical inactivity is a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Technology and modern lifestyle influences are leading people toward increasingly sedentary existences. Physical inactivity substantially increases the risk of developing diseases such as: obesity, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, heart attack, stroke and osteoporosis. Regular aerobic exercise helps reduce cardiovascular risk.

Why is exercise important?

When we exercise regularly, the entire body works in harmony, HDL (good) cholesterol tends to increase, the flow of blood and oxygen to the tissues improves, and blood pressure decreases. Exercise is also associated with improved self-esteem and a general sense of well-being.  Exercise helps boost energy and builds strength for performing everyday activities, because it conditions the muscles and joints.

What type of exercise is best for the heart?

Aerobic exercise is the most highly recommended type of physical activity because it conditions the heart to pump blood and oxygen to the whole body. Examples include walking, running, swimming and bicycling.  It is important to pick activities that fit your physical abilities and preferences.

What should an exercise routine include?

Exercise routines should always include:
Warm-up: Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes with exercises that prepare the body to engage in vigorous activity and avoid muscle and joint injuries.

Aerobic exercise: Perform aerobic exercises for 20 to 30 minutes; these should be rhythmic and should involve continuous use of the muscle groups.

Cool-down: Cool down for 5 to 10 minutes, gradually reducing exercise intensity until breathing and pulse are normal; stretch all involved muscle groups.

Exercise 3 or 4 times a week.

Why should children be active?

Physical activity is very important for children and adolescents because it helps to build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints; helps control weight; boosts psychological development, self-esteem and learning capacity; and helps control stress.

How much physical activity do kids need?

Kids require regular physical activity that increases their energy expenditure.
Recommendations to promote physical activity:

  • Kids should participate in physical education classes, sports, outdoor games, bike rides, etc. Encourage them to take part in fun activities and sports with other kids.
  • 20 minutes of daily exercise, like rope jumping, is recommended.
  • Parents and teachers should set a good example by being more active.
  • Emphasize outdoor activities.
  • Limit TV time, video games and computer use, because these habits are highly associated with inactive lifestyles (experts recommend no more than 1 or 2 hours a day). Plan ahead for what kids will watch; don't just turn on the TV to see what's on.
  • It's important tos set limits. It's your job as a parent or teacher to limit sedentary activities.
  • Make sure kids are involved in activities they enjoy. Let them try different activities until they find the ones they like most.
  • Keep a positive attitude. Celebrate successes and help kids and adolescents develop good self-esteem.
  • Take part in physical activities with your kids. Kids like nothing more than to spend time with their parents, so don't just send them out to play... join them.
  • Plan physical activities that involve the whole family, like group bike rides, a visit to the zoo, or vacations that include physical activity (for example, vacations that involve swimming, biking, camping, walking tours, etc.).
  • Keep a container in the car with soccer balls, frisbees, baseball gloves, jumpropes, etc.
  • When it's time to give a gift, instead of a DVD or videogame, give children sportswear or accessories, or items that promote physical activity, such as a soccer ball, bicycle, skates, racquets, etc.
  • Walk and talk with your kids instead of having long conversations at the dinner table. While walking, chat about homework assignments like geography or math.
  • Let kids and adolescents help with household chores like vacuuming, cleaning floors, walking the dog, washing the car, or raking leaves.
  • Designate areas in the house where kids can jump, dance or play; for example, a garage. On rainy days, look for a place where kids can exercise.
  • Don't try to make exercise a requirement for kids; this will only make them more resistant.
  • Encourage kids to get 20 to 30 minutes of exercise before doing homework.
  • Always take the stairs.


Dra. Yvonne García-Richaud
Presidenta de la Fundación InterAmericana del Corazón
Coordinadora del Grupo de Actividad Física