Why walking alone isn't enough to prevent heart disease and what you need to do instead
September 1, 2022

In the United States, inactivity, one of the top five risk factors for heart disease, causes over 250,000 deaths yearly. Focusing on hitting a step count is a place many people start. Walking has a lot of general physical and mental health benefits, including maintaining your ideal weight, boosting your mood, and improving sleep. 

But, "walking is INSUFFICIENT for blood pressure improvement. The heart rate level reached is too low for an adequate adaptation of the main artery, the aorta. Vigorous exercise is needed", says Tyler Read, CEO of Personal Trainer Pioneer.

Some are better than none when it comes to exercise. But to reduce your risk of heart disease, the intensity, and variety of what you do is equally important! In this article, we will explore why you need to do more than walking if you want to prevent heart disease and how to get started. 

Leave the danger zone of inactivity

Are you tracking your steps? Are you recording how many minutes of exercise you get? Now, what about the amount of time you spend you sitting? 

If you're like most of us, you aren't paying attention to that last one. We might think we're aware of our inactivity because smartwatches and fitness trackers will give us subtle prompts to get up and move. But where in those apps does it tell us our total sitting time? 

Dr. Derek Larson, a board-certified internal medicine doctor and a certified hypertension specialist says a "study including over 150,000 adults aged 59 to 82 years showed that replacing sitting time with exercise was associated with a decrease in all-cause mortality.”

Basically, getting physically active can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by 50 percent and reduce the risk of mortality by 25 percent. Those are some pretty good reasons to get up and moving.

How much exercise do you need to do?

According to the American Heart Association, the gold standard for exercise is 150 minutes a week. Typically that is divided into 30-minute sessions, five days a week. But you can further break that down.

You don't need to get in the entire 30 minutes in a single workout. Break it up over your day to reduce long periods of inactivity. This will get your heart and blood pumping more frequently. For example, you can do 7 minutes of activity three times a day (every day).

So what should you do to maximize your exercise time? Sprinkle in exercises with different intensity levels.

How intense should your exercise routine be?

According to Dr. Sean Ormond, board-certified in anesthesiology and interventional pain management, recent studies have shed new light on the importance of doing more than light exercise. 

"Participants who engaged in a lighter exercise were the highest number to succumb to heart disease. This was unlike their counterparts who exercised more heavily, 62% of whom had not succumbed to premature death from heart disease," says Dr. Ormond. 

An important note is that higher intensity activities aren't necessarily high impact. So even if you need to do low-impact exercises for health reasons (or personal preference), you CAN push yourself and do higher-intensity exercise. The trick is finding one you like.   

Alright, it's time to up your game and blend light exercise with moderate and vigorous intensity exercises. Not sure which one you're doing? Take the talk test and look at our list of examples below. 

Talk test:

  • Low-intensity: You can breathe and talk easily. Picture walking while talking on the phone.
  • Moderate-intensity: You can talk but not sing (possibly a good thing if you sing like me).
  • Vigorous-intensity: You can only say a word or two before pausing for a breath. Focus time! 

Examples of low-intensity exercise:

  • Walking
  • Gardening
  • Yoga
  • Swimming
  • Pilates
  • House cleaning

Examples of moderate-intensity activities:

  • Brisk walking
  • Water aerobics
  • Dancing 
  • Basketball
  • Biking (less than 10mph)
  • Hiking
  • Mowing

Examples of vigorous-intensity aerobic activities:

  • Speed walking
  • Running
  • Aerobics
  • Jumping rope
  • Cycling (over 10 mph)
  • HIIT
  • Climbing stairs

Use FITT to plan your workouts


  • How often do you want to exercise?
  • What is doable right now?
  • How can you build up to your goal number of workout sessions/ days?


  • Try doing a combination of low and moderate-intensity exercise. 
  • Add in high intensity as your health allows.
  • Measure intensity using the talk test. 


  • How many minutes will you exercise during the week?
  • How many minutes each day?
  • How will you spread that out over your day?


  • What low-intensity workouts do you like?
  • What moderate-intensity workouts do you enjoy?
  • What high-intensity workouts do you want to do?

Create a custom fitness program

You know the value of being active and adding variety to your workouts. Now it's time to get the ball rolling. The FITT model helps you brainstorm what suits your life. We have an article about getting started with heart-healthy exercise to give you more ideas. 

Making lifestyle changes can be overwhelming, and staying consistent with fitness is hard work. But you don't have to do this alone! People with accountability partners and coaches are 9X more successful in reaching their fitness goals. That’s why we love the work we do at CoPilot. 

Our fitness coaches create custom plans made for your life, needs, and preferences. If you hate running, no problem. Do you need something you can do with minimal to no equipment? Your coach has your back. There are no cookie-cutter workouts or exercise moves you can't do. 

Click here to find your coach today and take a step towards improving your heart health!


Learn more about the article experts:

Tyler Read, CEO of Personal Trainer Pioneer. Visit his website https://www.ptpioneer.com/

Dr. Derek Larson, board certified in internal medicine and a certified hypertension specialist. Visit his website http://www.stlkidney.com

Dr. Sean Ormond, dual board-certified in anesthesiology and interventional pain management. Visit his website at https://atlaspainspecialists.com/ and follow him on Instagram @atlaspainspecialists