Most U.S. adults do not know exercise guidelines for preventing heart disease

A telephone survey from the Cleveland Clinic found that only 20 percent of U.S. adults knew that guidelines recommend they exercise at least 2 ½ hours per week to prevent heart disease. In addition, 40 percent of the respondents said they exercised less than 2 ½ hours per week.

The Cleveland Clinic announced the results on Feb. 1 in conjunction with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's American Heart Month, which lasts through February.

“While heart patients should certainly consult with their doctor before beginning a new program, they should be more worried about the effects of not exercising on their heart than exercising,” Steve Nissen, MD, chairman of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic said in a news release. “Nearly all people with heart disease, and without, should exercise. It improves blood flow, leads to lower blood pressure and will help you live longer.”

Between Oct. 22 and Oct. 25, 2015, the Cleveland Clinic received responses from 1,009 U.S. adults who were at least 18 years old: 487 men and 522 women. Of the responses, 509 came via landline telephones and 500 were from cellular telephones.

The authors reported that 86 percent of the respondents said they exercised on a weekly basis and that men were more likely than women to exercise. In fact, 38 percent of men and 27 percent of women said they worked out at least five hours per week.

When asked about the barriers to exercising, 41 percent said work obligations prevented them from exercising, 37 percent said they were too tired to exercise, 28 percent cited obligations with family and friends and 14 percent said they were too out of shape.

In addition, 49 percent of respondents who exercised each week said they had never monitored their heart rate while exercising and 11 percent said they used a phone or tablet fitness application to track their daily exercise regimen.

Further, only 34 percent of respondents were aware that people with heart disease have to exercise as much as those without heart disease and only 15 percent knew that someone with high cholesterol does not need an exercise stress test before beginning an exercise program. Still, 82 percent knew that cardiac rehabilitation can reduce mortality rates from heart disease by approximately half.

“Heart disease kills about 1 in 4 Americans, but many of these deaths could be prevented by simple lifestyle changes like exercising and improving diet,” Nissen said. “Americans know exercise is important, but most don’t realize just how far a little exercise can go – potentially reducing the risk of dying from heart disease by as much as 40 to 50 percent. It’s worth making time for it.”