Please note

that these recommendations have been produced specifically to help people with, or at risk of, a long term condition, aiming to do moderate activity only.

Cardiovascular Risk prescription

Increased Cardiovascular Risk and Physical Activity


If you have increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease then you will reduce your risk of heart attack, angina, stroke and peripheral vascular disease by becoming regularly active. Developing diabetes and kidney problems is also a concern. You need to stop smoking if you smoke, eat a healthier diet, keep your waist in check, cut back if you drink a lot of alcohol and take regular physical activity.

Regular activity reduces risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 35% 1. Activity has a positive effect on the risk factors of cardiovascular disease including high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, high blood sugars (by improving the body’s natural regulatory system), having a family history of heart disease, smoking and increased body fat (in particular having lots of fat around the middle). Just like smoking and obesity, being ‘inactive’ is a serious threat to life. Your health risk will start to improve as soon as you move more; unlike many other medical therapies, physical activity protects and treats every part of the body.

Regular physical activity also gives you more energy, builds confidence and can help you to sleep more soundly at night. You can combine your activity time with family and friends or use it as an opportunity to reflect on things and listen to your favourite music.

Physical Activity Recommendations for inactive adults with Increased Cardiovascular Risk

Aim to do the following three types of activity:
  • Aerobic activity at relative moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week – one way to approach this is to do 30 minutes on at least five days each week.
  • Muscle strengthening activity on two or more days a week which work all major muscles groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulder and arms)
  • Flexibility exercises on a daily basis
Do not worry if you struggle to meet the Guideline, because by trying to become more active, you are still gaining some health benefits.

The Three Types of Activity and Increased Cardiovascular Risk

You may find the following weekly approach useful if you have been inactive for a while.

Aerobic activity


Aerobic activity, also known as endurance activity, is when large muscle movements, maintained over a period of time, make the heart and lungs work harder.

Activity? – Any type that you can maintain comfortably is ideal. Choose exercises that you enjoy, such as walking, cycling or group fitness classes. Aerobic activity is very important for your heart and circulation.

How long (duration)? – One approach to meet the recommendations is to do at least 30 minutes per day. You can split your sessions to a minimum of 10 minutes to reach your total. If you have been inactive for a long time, start with short sessions and increase the time as your body allows and you feel more confident. Remember not to sit for hours. A regular break from sitting every hour is healthy.

How hard (intensity)? – Try to progress gradually over time to a relatively moderate-intensity activity. Doing moderate intensity activity means that you feel warm, mildly out of breath and mildly sweaty. The ‘talk test’ is a simple way to measure moderate intensity. Whilst you are working, you can still talk, but not sing, during the activity.

How often (frequency)? – If you aim to do 30 minutes per day then do this at least 5 times per week so that you reach the 150 minutes total per week. Daily or near daily exercise is better as regular physical activity helps keep your heart healthy. When you start any new activity make sure you give your body enough time to recover and adapt between sessions.

Muscle Strengthening


Once your aerobic fitness improves, consider adding strength training on at least 2 days a week. Improved muscle tone can also help you gain better shape and improve the way you look and feel. Stronger, larger muscles use up more calories for energy so it can help you maintain your body fat. Some activities, such as climbing stairs, digging the garden or walking up hill, combine aerobic and muscle strengthening types.

These activities should work all the major muscle groups in your body such as legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders and arms. When strengthening a muscle group, begin by familiarising the movement with little or no load.

If you are using weights such as dumbbells, try to do at least 1 set of 8-12 repetitions per activity. The correct weight choice is the one which is hard to complete by the end of the set. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like doing a sit up or bicep curl.

Flexibility Exercises


Daily flexibility exercises can prevent pain, stiffness, and injury of muscles and joints. People often experience a sense of wellbeing and relaxation during flexibility exercises. Some quick and simple movements can be found in our separate exercise sheet. Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates are examples of some activities which combine strength and flexibility as well as balance training.

Safety considerations

  • If you have led a very sedentary lifestyle, begin by doing low intensity exercise of short duration, e.g. 10 minutes. Increase your level of activity gradually to avoid injury
  • Stop exercising if you feel dizzy, sick, unwell or very tired.
  • See a doctor if you are having chest pain, black outs or breathlessness on mild exertion.

Please see the following safety considerations if you have other long term health conditions.


This leaflet has been provided for information only. ALWAYS check with your doctor if you have any concerns about your condition or treatment. is not responsible or liable, directly or indirectly, for ANY form of damages whatsoever resulting from the use (or misuse) of information contained in or implied by this information.

Further reading

Other useful sites


  1. Department of Health and Human Services (2008) Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services

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