Exercise and Heart Health

There are 5 major risk factors of cardiovascular disease and sedentary lifestyle (along with high blood pressure, high lipids, smoking and obesity) tops the list for cardiovascular disease. Many studies have emphasized that reducing the above risks can help decrease the chances of having a heart attack and prevent the chances of having a secondary heart event.

Regular exercise has a favourable effect on overall health, it promotes weight reduction and can help reduce blood pressure, reduce “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood (LDL) as well as total cholesterol, and can raise the “good” cholesterol (HDL). Although the effect of an exercise program on any single risk factor may generally be small, the effect of continued, moderate exercise on overall cardiovascular risk, when combined with other lifestyle modifications (such as proper nutrition, no smoking and proper medication use), can be dramatic.

Exercise doesn’t need to be strenuous to be beneficial for your health. In fact, the Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend older people aged over 65 do 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity each day.

Types of exercise and their benefit on heart Health

Resistance Training (Strength Work)

What it does: For people who are carrying a lot of body fat (including a big belly, which is a risk factor for heart disease), it can help reduce fat and create leaner muscle mass. Research shows that a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance work may help raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

How much: At least two non-consecutive days per week of resistance training is a good rule of thumb.

Examples: Working out with free weights (such as hand weights, dumbbells or barbells), on weight machines, with resistance bands or through body-resistance exercises, such as push-ups, squats and chin-ups.

Aerobic Exercise

What it does: Aerobic exercise improves circulation, which results in lowered blood pressure and heart rate. In addition, it increases your overall aerobic fitness, as measured by a treadmill test, for example, and it helps your cardiac output (how well your heart pumps). Aerobic exercise also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and, if you already live with diabetes, helps you control your blood glucose.

How much: Ideally, at least 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week.

Examples: Brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing tennis and jumping rope. Heart-pumping aerobic exercise is the kind that doctors have in mind when they recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity.

Stretching, Flexibility and Balance

What they do: Flexibility workouts, such as stretching, don’t directly contribute to heart health. What they do is benefit musculoskeletal health, which enables you to stay flexible and free from joint pain, cramping and other muscular issues. That flexibility is a critical part of being able to maintain aerobic exercise and resistance training. Flexibility and balance exercises help maintain stability and prevent falls, which can cause injuries that limit other kinds of exercise.

How much: Every day and before and after other exercise.

Examples: Your doctor can recommend basic stretches you can do at home, or you can find mobile apps or YouTube videos to follow (though check with your doctor if you’re concerned about the intensity of the exercise). Tai chi and yoga also improve these skills, and classes are available in many communities.

HS-A has Support Groups located across Australia. These Groups meet up regularly to provide support, information and encouragement to patients, families and carers who have been affected by a heart event.

Heart Support Australia holds regular meetings with its members, including:

- sessions where you can talk about your own experience with other heart patients and their carers

- exercise classes

- talks by guest speakers.

Join us today, it’s easy and FREE!

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