Exercise and heart health

Updated: Apr 15

There are a number of major risk factors of cardiovascular disease - sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, high lipids, smoking and obesity are major players. 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 just 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity each day.

Recommended - following are some types of exercises and benefits on heart health:

Resistance Training (Strength Work)

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.

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

Aerobic exercise improves circulation, which results in lowered blood pressure and heart rate. In addition, it increases 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.

Recommended - ideally, at least 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week.

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

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.

Recommended - every day and before and after other exercise.

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 in various regions in Australia. These Groups meet regularly to provide support, information and encouragement to patients, families and carers who have been affected by a heart event. Meetings may include sessions where you can talk about your own experience with other heart patients and their carers, participate in exercise classes or walking groups and enjoy talks by guest speakers.

Join us today, it’s easy and FREE!

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