Epidemiological, clinical and laboratory studies have provided definitive evidence that physical activity is able to improve fitness and reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Moreover, physical exercise also seems to significantly reduce the risk of developing other chronic diseases such as obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, tumours and depression. Promoting physical activity in the general population is therefore one of the primary objectives of our healthcare institutions. Although the benefits of an active lifestyle have been demonstrated by numerous scientific data, only a few numbers of Italians and Europeans take up regular physical exercise. To promote physical activity, both in the general population and in subjects affected by cardiovascular diseases, the Italian Federation of Sports Medicine, the Italian Society of Sports Cardiology, the Italian Association of Hospital Cardiologists, the Italian Society of Cardiology, the Italian Association of Out-of-Hospital Cardiologists and the Italian Group of Cardiac Rehabilitation have promoted the constitution of a Task Force made up of experts in the fields of sports cardiology. The document produced by the Task Force is intended for healthcare professionals, and deals with the role of physical activity in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. It examines the beneficial effects of physical activity on the cardiovascular system, while analysing the possible risks involved and how they can be avoided. The rational principles underlying the prescription of physical activity in the cardiologic setting are described, as are the modalities for prescribing such activity.