Keep your heart healthy

Posted on: 17 November 2011 by Mark O'haire

Make cardiovascular exercise easy with expert advice on the best, fuss-free ways to reduce your chances of coronary heart disease.

cardiovascular exerciseThe heart is a muscle that pumps blood around the body, and like all muscles, it needs exercise to stay healthy. Without it the body becomes more prone to illness and disease, but this doesn't mean you have to rush to your local gym.  Even becoming just a little more active will make a real difference so simply think of exercise in terms of everyday activity, and the more you do, the better your fitness and the lower your risk of heart disease.  Exercise also has the additional benefit of reducing stress by releasing feel-good hormones called endorphins.

How Does Exercise Help Heart Disease?

Being physically active halves your risk of heart disease and benefits the entire body.  It can:

  • Lower blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease
  • Increase good HDL cholesterol that transports fat away from the arteries and back to the liver for processing
  • Reduce levels of bad LDL cholesterol that can form fatty deposits in the arteries and contribute to heart disease
  • Improve circulation by preventing blood clots that can lead to heart attack and stroke
  • Increase fat loss
  • Help weight-loss
  • Build muscle mass.

What Type Of Exercise?

To strengthen the heart muscle you must do cardiovascular exercise. This type of exercise strengthens the heart and lungs and improves the body's ability to use oxygen - which means it has the most benefits for your heart.

Over time, cardiovascular exercise can help decrease your heart rate and blood pressure at rest, and improve your breathing and quality of life.

What Are Examples Of Cardiovascular Exercises?

Walking, jogging, skipping, bicycling (stationary or outdoor), swimming, step, skating, rowing, aerobics or water aerobics and some forms of dance.  Basically anything that increases your heart rate and make you hot and sweaty!

How Often Should I Exercise?

To achieve maximum benefits you should aim to gradually work up to a cardiovascular session lasting 20 to 30 minutes, at least three to four times a week. Exercising every day or every other day will help you keep a regular cardiovascular exercise schedule.

How Can I Increase Activity Levels?

Simple ways to increase activity levels are:

  • Take the stairs or walk up escalators to tone your legs and buttocks
  • Walk to the shops instead of driving, and carry the shopping bags home to give your arms a good workout
  • Cycle or walk short journeys rather than using the car
  • Get off the bus or train a stop early
  • Use your lunch break to go for a brisk stroll.

You can split the recommended 30 minutes into manageable chunks - for example a ten minute walk to and from the bus stop to your place of work, plus a five minute walk to the shops and back. Energetic household chores like vacuuming, washing the windows and gardening also count as exercise.

You may also want to invest in a pedometer, an electronic device that clips on your waistband and records how many steps are taken. This will give you a base level from which to increase. Experts recommend 10,000 steps a day.

Finally, weekends are a great opportunity to be more active. From country walks to busy shopping trips, leisure centres to health spas, there is a range of venues and activities to suit everyone.

Whatever exercise is chosen make it something enjoyable because there's no point doing something that will become a chore.  If you enjoy the activity, you will begin to learn to enjoy exercising!

A Few Sensible Precautions

  • People with a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, or who have not exercised in a long time should consult the doctor about exercise before they begin.
  • Always warm up.
  • Allow time for "cooling down" stretching after exercise.

Related Links

Heart Healthy Foods Want to reduce your risk of having a heart attack? A nutritionist explains how - and you don't have to give up wine or chocolate.

Rehabilitation After A Heart Attack The best ways to get back on track after having a heart attack.

Boost Your Circulation Beauty tricks to revive your body and brighten your face.


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