The Heart of an Exercise RoutinePor Leslie Rodríguez, RD, LD, Specialist in sports nutrition and physical activity at MyDiet™ -
What could do more damage to your heart than smoking a pack of cigarettes every day? A lack of physical activity can severely damage your heart.
If you do not engage in regular physical activity, you could double your risk of developing heart disease, increase your risk for diabetes, and also raise your risk for high blood pressure. Unfortunately, an estimated 65-85% of the world’s population does not get enough exercise. Heart disease due to a lack of physical activity can affect children as well. In fact, two out of three kids worldwide fail to exercise enough.
Your heart, an extremely strong muscle, must pump blood to every part of your body. Like any other muscle in your body, your heart gets stronger with regular exercise. Engaging in certain types of activity helps increase your cardiovascular fitness by improving blood circulation throughout your body.
A heart that has been strengthened as the result of regular cardiovascular exercise does not have to work as hard to circulate the blood through the body because each pump does its job more efficiently. Some research has indicated that exercise works much the same way as some heart medications. Exercise forces more blood to pass through your blood vessels. This action reduces inflammation, similar to how steroids work in your body. Scientists have linked inflammation to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Vigorous and moderately vigorous exercise will most improve the condition of your heart and lungs, but low-intensity exercise also has its benefits. Vigorous activity includes dancing, bicycling, running, swimming, and walking briskly on a regular basis. Moderately vigorous activities, such as soccer, basketball, tennis and slower-paced walking, also improve the condition of your heart. The American Heart Association recommends engaging in one of these activities for at least 30 minutes three or four times a week.
Low-intensity activities, such as baseball, gardening, housework and walking at a leisurely pace do not condition the heart and lungs much, but they have other long-term health benefits including improving coordination and muscle tone, relieving tension and burning up some calories.
Improving your heart health requires a lifetime of dedication. If you stop your aerobic routine, you'll lose the benefits it had on your heart. Fortunately, you don't have to run a marathon to reap the cardiac benefits of exercise. Even a moderate amount will do your heart some good. Consider taking a brisk 30-minute walk four or five days a week to help you control your weight, manage your stress, and leave you feeling less anxious and more optimistic. Not only will all of these factors help improve your heart health, but you'll also get your heart pumping faster to make it a more efficient and toned muscle!
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