Swimming, Cycling, Cross-Fit, Football, Tennis, Pilates the list of types of exercises we can do are as long as my arm, but can exercising improve our cardiovascular health?
In this article we’ll explore why exercising is believed to be beneficial for the heart, along with how much and what type?
Firstly exercise is vital to keep your cardiovascular system healthy as it plays a role in lowering blood pressure. The study “Physical Activity and Prevention of Hypertension” (1) says “the available evidence strongly supports a role for physical activity in the prevention of hypertension”.
The reason for this is two fold; exercising strengthens the muscles in your heart making it easier to pump the blood around your body, whilst also aiding in weight maintenance an important factor in blood pressure control.
Furthermore there have been numerous studies which show, exercise can help to increase our HDL cholesterol, also known as the “good” cholesterol. One particular study (2) found that when participants exercised by walking 1 hour 5 x a week they not only increased their HDL cholesterol but reduced their triglyceride levels. This is crucial for heart health as high levels of HDL with lower levels of triglycerides are believed to be beneficial for heart health.
The benefits of exercising are not limited to the ones mentioned, they also include;
With many advantages of exercising it seems clear that it is essential for a healthy body, this is summed up in the study titled “Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise” (3) which says “Physically active individuals have lower blood pressure, higher insulin sensitivity, and a more favourable plasma lipoprotein profile. Animal models of exercise show that repeated physical activity suppresses atherogenesis and increases the availability of vasodilatory mediators such as nitric oxide. Exercise has also been found to have beneficial effects on the heart”
Living an active lifestyle may almost seem like the perfect anecdote to a long and healthy life, but is it a case of the more the better? Or are certain types of exercise more beneficial and can we over do it when it comes to exercising?
According to certain researchers it does appear that there is a sweet spot when it comes to exercising, for example in The American Journal of Medicine, article titled “Exercise and Health: Dose and Response, Considering Both Ends of the Curve” (4) Dr. Simon reviewed current research on the health effects on both ends of the exercise spectrum, from minimum to maximum and notes the following “In a study of 2377 heart attack survivors, some protection was evident at levels equivalent to jogging or walking just 0.6-1 miles per day. Benefit increased progressively up to a 63% reduction in cardio-vascular mortality at levels equivalent to running 4 miles a day. Beyond that, benefit decreased, but the risk of cardio-vascular mortality still remained below that of sedentary patients” . This suggests that doing a moderate amount of exercise will help you achieve the results you want.
Supporting the idea that more isn't always better in one study (5) researchers found that white males over 25 who did 3 times the recommended amount of exercise had higher chances of developing coronary subclinical atherosclerosis by middle age.
With all this said the most important message seems to be moving your body daily will help to keep your heart and body healthy, there doesn’t appear to be a particular benefit for those who do more intense longer periods of exercise such as marathon running. Dr Simon who conducted the research paper "Exercise and Health: Dose and Response, Considering Both Ends of the Curve" stated that people who did moderate exercise just 15 minutes a day tended to live an average of three years longer than their inactive peers, therefore he suggests encouraging patients to start off with walking just 1 mile a day and over time increasing it to 2-3 miles a day. For optimal results he advises that people add in 2-4 strength training sessions per week. According to Webmd an exercise routine should involve some aerobic/cardio exercise some strength training and some stretching.
However for some people even 15 minutes of exercise can seem too hard. If you find yourself struggling with exercise it may be that you’re deficient in certain nutrients. Cardiologists Stephen Sinatra and James C. Roberts explain in the book “Reverse Heart Disease Now” that some of their patients have found it very difficult to exercise. They suggest to these patients the following supplements CoQ10, Magnesium, D-ribose, and L-carnitine. They believe that these nourish the mitochondria enabling cells to generate the energy required to physically jumpstart people into exercising. They have had great success enabling their patients to exercise.
Finally moving your body will not only improve your heart health but will improve your sense of well-being. So find something you love, whether it be dancing, hiking, a team sport or water sport and enjoy yourself whilst improving health.
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