Whether you hit the gym or hit the streets, exercise improves your heart health. This infographic shows 8 great reasons your heart will thank you for working out.

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Exercise benefits on the heart include:

Helps your heart pump more blood with less strain

When you exercise regularly, your heart is strengthened which means it can pump oxygenated blood efficiently around your body at a lower rate.

Puts you at the lowest risk for heart disease.

Findings from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that for people with heart disease, exercise can reduce the risk of:

  • dying from heart disease
  • having a non-fatal heart attack
  • requiring procedures such as heart bypass surgery or angioplasty

And for people without heart disease, regular exercise can decrease the chance of developing it.

Improves cholesterol and fat levels

According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise has been shown to improve cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Reduces arterial inflammation

Unless you’ve had a stroke, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about your blood vessels. And while you’ve heard that inflammation isn’t a good thing, you probably couldn’t say exactly why that is, right? Well new research shows just how dangerous inflammation is—and a simple way to combat it.

First, here’s the skinny on inflammation: As we age, low grade inflammation — your immune system’s response to any sort of injury—begins to thicken the arteries and vessels that transport your blood, making it more difficult for your heart to do its job, explains Mark Hamer, PhD, an epidemiologist at University College London. The jury’s still out on why inflammation increases as you grow older, but it likely has to do with the loss of muscle. The good news? Hamer’s new research offers an easy way to overcome the blood-flow-gumming effects of inflammation: A bit of exercise.

While past research has identified exercise as a good way to reverse or reduce inflammation, most of those studies were short-term, says Hamer. So his team wanted to find out whether exercise worked in the long run, so they kept tabs on the exercise habits and markers of inflammation on more than 4,000 middle-aged men and women for more than 10 years.

The results: Regardless of BMI or weight, study participants who completed 2.5 hours of moderate exercise each week—about 30 minutes a day—lowered their markers of inflammation by at least 12%, Hamer says. Furthermore, those who began exercising midway through the study also significantly lowered their levels of inflammation, meaning it’s never too late to benefit from exercise, he says.

Helps with weight loss

Regular exercise is an important part of any weight-loss or weight-maintenance program. When you’re active, your body uses more energy (calories). And when you burn more calories than you consume, you lose weight.

Because 3,500 calories equals about 1 pound (0.45 kilogram) of fat, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in to lose 1 pound. So if you cut 500 calories from your diet each day, you’d lose about 1 pound a week (500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories). There are other factors that can influence this equation. Because of changes that occur in the body over time, calories may need to be decreased further to continue weight loss.

Improves blood pressure

Regular exercise is proven to lower blood pressure, not to mention mental health and relationship-boosting benefits, too! In one study, jogging 2 miles a day controlled high blood pressure so well that more than half of the patients who had been taking BP drugs were able to stop using their medication. But it’s not just jogging that can help.  Activity such as yoga can lower blood pressure almost as well as moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. Weight training also offers heart-health benefits.

Reduces your resting heart rate

When you exercise regularly, your heart is strengthened. Since regular exercise strengthens your heart, when you are at rest, the strengthened heart doesn’t need to do as much work. This means your heart doesn’t have to work as hard which, in turn, lowers your risk of heart disease.

Lowers risk of stroke

High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke and with high blood pressure doubling or even quadrupling your stroke risk, engaging in a regular exercise program can greatly decrease your risk of stroke.

Almost any type of workout that raises your heart rate counts, such as brisk walking, playing tennis, mowing the lawn, or even gardening.

The main thing is, according to the American Heart Association, no matter your current weight or fitness level, strive for 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise six days a week. Adding physical activity, even in 10-minute intervals several times a day, can help you get on the right track.

To stay motivated, find an exercise buddy or join an exercise group. And remember, any activity is helpful. Even taking the stairs instead of the elevator or doing a few sit ups while watching television can make a difference.