How Much Exercise Does Your Heart Need Each Week?

Not as much as you'd think.

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We all know exercise is good for our health and hearts. But according to a February 2016 survey from Cleveland Clinic, less than 20 percent of us know how much exercise we're supposed to get each week to keep our hearts in tip-top condition. Many of us also aren't aware of what it takes to lose weight or what we need to do when exercising with a health condition.

It's time to clear up the confusion. Here's the big takeaway: We all need 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise each week to keep our tickers happy, and 40 percent of us aren't reaching that goal. But now that we know the minimum requirement is only a couple hours, it'll be easier to make time to get our heart rates up. Workouts don't have to be boring, either: A couple sessions of spinning, dancing, or even briskly walking around the mall each week is all it takes.

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Steve Nissen, MD, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic, urges Americans to make the time for exercise, as it can reduce the risk of dying from heart disease by as much as 40 to 50 percent. "Americans know exercise is important, but most don't realize just how far a little exercise can go," he said in a statement. With that in mind, let's look at a few more interesting findings from Cleveland Clinic's survey:

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Work Is the Main Reason Americans Don't Exercise More

Work obligations were the biggest obstacle to fitting in exercise time, closely followed by fatigue and obligations to friends and family. Men were less likely than women to skip their workout. Considering work-related stress is just as damaging to your body and mind as secondhand smoke, make exercise (and time for yourself!) a priority. You'll feel much better in the long run.

Americans Have Misconceptions About Exercising With a Health Condition

Most Americans aren't aware that the recommended amount of exercise per week is the same for people who have heart disease as it is for people who don't. What's more, 81 percent incorrectly believed that people with high cholesterol must undergo a stress test before beginning an exercise program.

Even with a health condition, there are ways to stay active. Try walking at home or getting into yoga or Tai Chi, all of which are low-impact ways to increase your heart rate and make sure you stay active.

Weight Loss Is the Biggest Motivator for Exercise

Out of those who exercised weekly, 51 percent said losing or maintaining weight was their biggest motivator for working up a sweat. 32 percent said heart benefits were their main exercise motivator.

While exercise is an important aspect of losing weight in a healthy way, it's not the one-and-only weight-loss tool. And exercising more doesn't always mean you'll lose more weight. In a January 2016 study published in Current Biology, researchers found people don't necessarily burn extra calories if they exercise more. Following a healthy diet is key when it comes to losing weight, and combining the two is the ultimate way to see results.

Most Americans Don't Know What It Takes to Lose a Pound

Losing weight isn't easy, and half of those surveyed weren't sure how much it really takes to lose a pound each week. To get rid of extra bulge, you have to burn or eliminate 500 calories every single day. That might mean ditching your afternoon soda or switching out your morning pastry for a more balanced breakfast.

Most Are Aware of Cardiac Rehab, But Not as Many Take Advantage of It

82 percent of the people surveyed understood that cardiac rehabilitation — a medically supervised program that aims to identify and reduce health factors that can cause heart disease — can reduce their risk of dying from heart disease. But only about 30 percent of those surveyed who qualify for rehabilitation reported completing the program.

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