Help Your Heart with Exercise
Studies show that exercise of even low to moderate intensity can have both short- and long-term health benefits. Such activities as pleasure walking, stair climbing, gardening, yard work, housework, and dancing will pay off in improved physical as well as mental well-being. More vigorous exercise further improves the condition of your heart and lungs.
Moderate physical activity not only tones up the heart and reduces the risk of heart attacks, but also affects a number of components of the cardiovascular system. An analysis of almost 100 studies has shown:
If you are inactive, you have six times the risk of heart disease as someone who is active.
- Moderate physical activity three to five times a week will improve cardiovascular function in eight to 10 weeks and reduce risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
- Vigorous exercise two to four times a week reduces the risk of a second heart attack by 40%.
- Regular physical activity lowers high blood pressure and prevents the development of high blood pressure in people with normal levels. Your blood pressure level is lower on days when you are physically active than when you are not.
- People who exercise can expect a 24% drop in serum cholesterol; a 10% drop in LDL, the “bad” cholesterol; and a 6% increase in HDL, the “good” cholesterol. Not much activity is needed to reduce cholesterol levels.
- Physical activity reduces the body’s tendency to produce blood clots that clog arteries and cause heart attacks and strokes.
- Physical activity enhances the production of a substance that helps blood vessels relax and contract more efficiently. It also reduces swings in heart rate in patients after heart attacks.
Aerobic activity that raises your heart rate is thought to give the most benefit. But any activity that gets you moving for at least a few minutes a day is better than none at all.
For inactive people, the trick is to just get started. Start with a daily walk and you will soon start feeling better overall. This will be the reinforcement you need to increase your activity even more for the greatest heart-health benefits.
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