Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health
Over the past 4 decades, numerous scientific reports have examined the relationships between physical activity, physical fitness, and cardiovascular health. There have been expert panels such as the American College of Sports Medicine, (ACSM), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Heart Association (AHA) that continually reinforce data driven evidence that there is a definite link between physical activity and cardiovascular health. The reports continue to show that the more active you are, the less likely you are to develop heart disease or if you do develop heart disease it will likely occur at a later age and will be less severe. Read these tips to stay on track with your healthy living plan:
Exercise has a direct effect on your heart. Being sedentary is one of the 5 major risk factors (along with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and obesity) for cardiovascular disease. We have mounds of evidence to support that reducing these risk factors will decrease your chance of having a heart attack since it has a positive and favorable effect on the established risk factors. Since exercise can promote weight loss, reduce your blood pressure and reduce the ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in your blood then it can reduce your risk of heart disease. Of course one session of exercise won’t do the trick but consistent exercise over time combined with a healthy eating plan will.
Exercise brings positive physiological benefits. Your body’s ability to improve its muscular function and strength, and its ability to take in and more effectively utilize oxygen as it is transported through your circulatory system is positively affected. If you have ever been diagnosed with heart disease, exercise will help you move through your daily living activities with less fatigue. Your muscles will become better trained to use the oxygen you take in allowing you to perform better, longer. Improvements in bone health, back pain, sleep cycles, stress levels and other physiological functions have been studied and proven.
The amount of exercise matters! Based on several reports and studies including the Surgeon General’s Report, a joint CDC/ACSM consensus statement, and a National Institutes of Health report, the benefits of exercise will generally occur by incorporating at least 30 minutes of modest activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. Modest activity is defined as any activity that is similar in intensity to brisk walking at a rate of about 3 to 4 miles per hour although many different types of activities will do. The most important thing to keep in mind is that it needs to be something that you like doing, safe, and convenient for your particular lifestyle. If you like playing outdoor games with your kids great! If you prefer the treadmill at the gym, go for it! As long as you are incorporating moderate intensity movement into your day for at least 30 minutes, then your heart will appreciate it and you will start to feel positive changes taking place in your body. If you already meet these standards then you will receive additional benefits from more vigorous activity.
Begin your exercise program by making sure your doctor approves. If you currently have heart disease or you are over 45 years old, have 2 or more risk factors (immediate family member with heart disease before age 55, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, or obesity), you should consult your physician before starting any type of exercise. If you know that you won’t set aside 30 minutes to exercise, try starting with 15 minutes or at the very least incorporate more movement by working it into your day like taking the stairs, walking short distances instead of driving, standing instead of sitting, etc. The most important thing to do right now is to start. Now!
There is no need to wait to get started with your exercise program, but if you need motivation invite a friend along. Set reminders for yourself that will help you remember the reason why you need to exercise such as ‘I want to live longer’ or ‘I need more energy to do everything I want to do’. Making an emotional connection will help you stay consistent and to do it even when you don’t really feel like it. The obvious benefits of exercise may not be enough to keep you going but your own personal reasons can. With heart disease being the number one cause of death for men and women, we must be proactive to prevent it. Have fun while exercising and you’ll forget that you are!
Thanks for reading!
Contributor: Kim Farmer of Mile High Fitness & Wellness. Mile High Fitness & Wellness offers in-home personal training and corporate wellness solutions. Visit www.milehighfitness.com/personaltraining or email firstname.lastname@example.org