Heart Health - Be Good To Your Heart

According to the American Heart Association, “as many as 250,000 deaths per year in the United States are attributable to a lack of regular physical activity.”  Many of those deaths are the result of heart disease. 

Statistics indicate that one of the five major risk factors that lead to cardiovascular disease is a sedentary lifestyle.  This is one risk factor that can be eliminated by engaging in a regular exercise program.  This is also one risk factor over which you have control.

People who live sedentary lifestyles often become overweight.  Obesity has been linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, coronary heart disease, and other health problems.

On the other hand, regular exercise provides many health benefits, including a stronger, healthier heart.

Cardiovascular Benefits of Exercise
Regular exercise on fitness equipment like treadmills and elliptcial machines promote good heart health and reduces the likelihood of developing heart disease in a number of ways.  Engaging in routine physical activity favorably affects the following risk factors:

  • Weight - Exercise contributes to weight reduction and control.  
  • Blood pressure - Exercise can help lower blood pressure to healthier levels. 
  • Cholesterol - Exercise can reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and total cholesterol levels.  It can increase good cholesterol (HDL) levels.
  • Circulation - Exercise can help improve circulation, reduce the risk of blood clots in narrowed arteries, and improve elasticity of arteries.
  • Tolerance - Regular exercise leads to an increase in exercise tolerance.  As tolerance increases, the body becomes better able to take in and utilize oxygen efficiently.  Muscular strength and performance improve.  There is also improvement in the amount of activity one can perform without becoming overly fatigued.

How Much and What Kind of Exercise is Beneficial?
Research has shown that health benefits are derived from even the most moderate exercises.  Of course, the more you exercise and the harder you exercise, the greater will be the rewards that are reaped!  Nevertheless, merely engaging in such everyday lifestyle activities as gardening and housecleaning is healthier than constantly being idle.

Aerobic exercise has been found to produce the greatest physical benefits, among which is a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.  The goal of aerobic activity is to raise the heart rate and keep it elevated for an extended period of time.  This activity creates an increase in the amount of oxygen that is carried to the body’s muscles, allowing the muscles to work longer.  As your aerobic health improves, your breathing and heart rate will be more regulated during physical activity.

Aerobic exercise includes such activities as walking, jogging, bicycling, and cross country skiing.  Fitness and health experts recommend that you do 20-60 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 to 5 times per week for optimal benefits.

If you are just starting an exercise program, don’t attempt to keep up with more advanced athletes.  Take it easy.  Begin at a slower pace and work for shorter periods.  Gradually increase those workouts to longer, more intense sessions. 

Walking is a highly recommended form of exercise, especially for those who are just beginning an exercise program.  It is low-impact.  It requires no special skills or equipment.  It efficiently burns calories and fat.  As a matter of fact, walking is an activity in which the majority of the population can participate, and it can be done practically anywhere. 

Protect Your Heart
Regardless of what your exercise preference may be, the important issue is that you get up and do something active!  Leave that sedentary lifestyle behind!  Strengthen and protect your heart.  Improve your overall health and well-being, so that you can truly enjoy the things that you love in life.

Note: Prior to beginning any exercise program, consult your physician.  This is especially important for individuals who have previously had heart or other serious health problems, as well as for those who have been inactive for a lengthy period of time.

Written by Cyndi Waters
Fitness Writer            

Smooth Fitness | Treadmills & Ellipticals

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