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I’m a couch potato in a family of sports fanatics. Given the choice, I’d much rather watch my favorite sport on television from the comfort of my favorite armchair, with the air conditioner going full blast and a glass of cold iced tea nearby to fend off sympathy sweat! I never could quite figure out why playing the piano didn’t qualify as exercise. Unfortunately for me, my love of a good book rather than a jog around the block is doing much more damage than just enabling me to wear a few more pounds than I’d like. My activity level, or lack thereof, has also put me at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular (heart) disease.
Exercise - or to be more precise, the lack of exercise - is one of the major risk factors associated with the development of heart disease. Those of us who are afflicted by a love affair with the couch are twice as likely to develop heart disease as our counterparts who are physically active. Not only does lack of exercise, or “physical activity” if you want to be politically correct, increase your risk of heart disease, it also increases your risk of stroke and can lead to obesity. When you stop to consider it, that makes perfect sense – if you don’t expend more calories than you take in, obesity is the natural result. Obesity creates a negative cascade effect on your health and leads you down the path to high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol--all of which in turn increases your risk of heart disease even more.
Eliminating this risk factor is simple – make a decision to increase your physical activity level and then do it. Get up off the couch, put one foot in front of the other and move! Actually, it’s not quite as simple as it sounds. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends getting 30 minutes of exercise every day. When it comes to getting the recommended amount, women fare much worse than men. Estimates are that 60 percent of all women fall short of this target. We’re also much more likely (41 percent) to not exercise or engage in any physical activity at all. Those numbers really come as no surprise considering the stresses and roles that women play today both at work and home.