Why you need exercise to improve your heart health
5 exercises for heart health
As we age, our risk for developing heart disease increases. The heart is a muscle, and like all muscles, it can weaken over time, particularly if you don’t lead an active lifestyle.
Heart disease is the leading single cause of death in Australia, however lifestyle changes such as eating well, regular exercise and not smoking have been directly linked with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Here are 5 exercises for heart health that you can incorporate into your life to help you cut your risk of heart disease.
How does exercise improve heart health?
Insufficient physical exercise is a major contributing factor to heart disease. However, if you do more exercise, you can reduce your heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. Even if you already have heart disease, exercise can help you manage your condition.
Exercise has other benefits too. It can help you lose weight and also can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. It can help your bones and muscles become stronger.
Exercise also has mental health benefits and can help ease anxiety and depression. When you exercise with a friend, you can add socialisation into the mix, making everyone feel good.
How do you start exercise for heart health?
If you have pre-existing health issues, it’s important to talk to your GP before you start any exercise program. They will advise you what type of exercise you should choose and help you build your routine up safely.
Your next step is to consider what you’re likely to enjoy most and what will be easy to integrate into your routine. You could join a group activity or suggest exercising together with a friend. Or you could get some good earphones and use your exercise as a chance to listen to podcasts or audiobooks.
If you’ve never done much exercise, it’s ok. The key is to start small. You can reduce your risk of heart disease by walking as little as 15 minutes a day. As you improve your fitness level, you can gradually increase it to 20 minutes, then 25 minutes, and so on.
If you’re aged between 18 and 64 years, the Heart Foundation recommends you do at least two and a half hours of physical activity per week. For people over the age of 65, they recommend 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
Here are 5 of the best exercises for heart health.
Walking is a low impact exercise which is extremely beneficial in improving your heart health. In fact, if you walk for an average of 30 minutes or more a day, you can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke by 35% and Type 2 diabetes by 40%.
The benefit of walking is that most people can do it and you don’t need any special equipment. Walking temporarily increases your heart rate and blood pressure to get the heart pumping.
Start with 15 minutes of gentle walking and gradually build it up. You could join a walking group which has the added benefit of giving you some socialisation. Or simply take a walk to the local shops or around the block.
Swimming is another low impact exercise which has shown to improve heart health. The benefit of swimming is that it increases your heart rate while reducing impact stress on the body, making it an ideal exercise for people with arthritis and chronic conditions.
Swimming trains your body to use oxygen more effectively and helps decline the resting heart rate and breathing rate. It can also improve flexibility and improve muscle strength. One study found it improved body weight, body fat distribution, and LDL cholesterol levels better than walking did.
If you’re not confident doing laps, you could also try walking or running in water or even programs like aquarobics. You could also look into swimming lessons to increase your confidence and fitness in the water.
Cycling is an aerobic exercise that can be especially beneficial for older people as it’s lower impact that doesn’t wear the joints.
Cycling improves your heart function by raising your metabolic rate and burning fat, which can keep your weight under control. Being overweight is a prime risk factor for developing heart disease.
There are many ways you can incorporate cycling in your life. You could ride to the nearby shops instead of getting in the car or join a cycling group that goes on regular leisurely bike rides around your area.
You may have only considered aerobic training for heart health. However, studies have found that combining aerobic and strength training can increase weight loss, fat loss and improve cardio-respiratory fitness.
Training with weights boosts your muscle to fat ratio, which means as you become stronger and build muscle, your body burns more fat when resting.
This results in maintaining a healthy body weight, which contributes to reducing the risk of heart disease. Not only does strength training improve heart health, but it strengthens your muscles, improves bone health and tones the body.
Like strength training, yoga is not first in mind when it comes to improving heart health. Yoga is gentle and relaxing and it rarely increases your heart rate.
However, it helps maintain good blood circulation throughout your body and it can can reduce your blood pressure as it can help you stay calmer in times of stress.
Although it's daunting to try something new, you could look into a local beginner yoga class.
Get some help if you need it
Light to moderate exercise is fine for most people, but if you feel any symptoms of discomfort, it’s important you stop and seek medical advice. These signs include: ● Chest pain ● Feeling faint ● Difficulty breathing ● Your heart beating irregularly or too fast
For more information on heart health and exercise, visit the Australian Heart Foundation.
Five Good Friends help people live engaged and successful lives in the homes and communities they love. We provide support to help people with improved health and wellbeing. This could include helping you to find the support you need to develop an exercise routine and get you on your way to a healthy heart.
Call us today on 1300 787 581 to discuss how we can help you.