5 Reasons to Exercise for a Healthy Heart
By: Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA, Vice President, Worldwide Sports Performance and Fitness
Every time you exercise, you strengthen the one muscle that is absolutely non-negotiable for a happy, healthy life – your heart.
In fact, according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health, inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who are more active. That fact puts in perspective just how important exercise is to prevent cardiovascular diseases.
But how exactly does regular physical activity keep our hearts healthy?
Here are 5 reasons why exercise promotes a healthy heart:
1. Exercise lowers blood pressure.
According to the World Health Organization, aerobic exercise is the best type of physical activity to address high blood pressure. It involves repetitive and rhythmic movements and uses large muscle groups, such as those in your legs, shoulders, and arms. Think swimming, walking, jogging, or dancing.
2. Exercise improves oxygenation.
Exercise strengthens muscles, thus improving their ability to draw oxygen from the circulating blood. This way, the heart works more efficiently to pump blood to the muscles.
3. Exercise maintains a healthy weight.
Through exercise, you burn calories. Aerobic exercise creates an energy deficit, while resistance exercise improves lean muscle mass. This, combined with a balanced diet, will help you maintain a healthy weight and optimal cholesterol levels.
4. Exercise reduces stress.
Being constantly tense due to stress can lead to high blood pressure. Exercising improves both mood and self-confidence, which is in turn helpful to manage stress.
5. Exercise boosts HDL cholesterol.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL), also known as the “good” cholesterol, clean the arteries of excess cholesterol. They transport that excess to the liver where it is metabolized. This reduces the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
A recent study conducted by Japanese researchers found that exercising at least three to four times per week for at least 20 minutes increases HDL levels.
Getting Started on Your Path to Heart Health
When you take the steps that are in your control, such as exercising and eating right, you feel the benefits pretty quickly. In fact, after focusing on a cardio training program for a couple of weeks, exercise will become easier, and everyday tasks won’t leave you short of breath as easily.
All it takes is carving out around 150 minutes a week for moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Put another way, just 30 minutes of brisk walking or light exercise per weekday will do wonders for your heart. Muscle-strengthening activities involving major muscle groups are also recommended at least twice a week.
So, pick up a hobby that’ll do good for your heart and your health. It can be walking, running, cycling, dancing, swimming, and really anything that gets your heart rate going. All of it can have a positive impact on your health, well-being, and happiness now and down the road.