By Deja Becknell, BSN
nutraMetrix Health & Nutrition Writer
What if I told you, in as little as 30 minutes per day this one act could help you maintain a healthy heart?1 One of the best gifts you can give the heart is physical activity. Just as exercise may strengthen other parts of the body, it also helps our heart muscles to thrive. Wondering how you can use exercise to give some extra TLC to your heart? Keep reading to find out.
What Happens When I Exercise?
Of course the obvious answer is that exercise burns calories, helping us to maintain a healthy weight or assist us in a goal to lose unwanted pounds. What you may not know is that when you exercise, your muscles help to circulate the blood through the body, adding in a mechanical component that assists in the critical circulation of blood and function of the heart.
Sometimes we may forget that our heart is a muscle, so similar to other body parts, the heart can slowly lose its strength, stamina and ability to function well. This is as much a consequence of aging as it is one of lifestyle. As you begin to exercise, your heart becomes better conditioned and supports oxygen rich blood flow to the muscles, the brain and the organs throughout the body. Overtime, exercise can help your body’s tissue become more effective at pulling the oxygen it needs from the blood. This allows your heart to perform better under both physical and metabolic stress and give you more endurance during high-intensity exercises.1 Consider exercising a protection policy for your heart. Exercise essentially helps to train our heart to be stronger and more resilient.
An Unexpected Partner During Times of Trouble
Ever experienced heartbreak? While exercise alone certainly can’t mend a broken heart, it can actually help support you during times of distress. Stress hormones, as a result of significant or day-to-day stress can have an impact on healthy cardiovascular performance and function. Exercises such as running, weightlifting, and yoga have been proven to help our bodies relax and relieve tension and stress.2
Additional long-term cardiovascular benefits of exercise may include:
- Support for a healthy resting heart rate
- Maintain a healthy resting blood pressure
- May improve calories burned to aid weight loss
- Promote healthy cholesterol levels
- Assist in the ability to draw deeper breaths
- Support a healthy immune system
Where Do I Start?
Everyone has to start somewhere! Be active in as many ways as possible every day. Any increase in physical activity will be beneficial to your overall health and wellbeing – no matter your age or size. Physical activity can include everyday tasks such as climbing the stairs or going for a walk on your lunch break. Experts suggest aiming for light exercise such as walking at least 30 minutes 5 days a week. Alternatively, you can also perform moderate exercises such as running, swimming or bicycling for 30 minutes 3 days a week. You can get added benefits by including strength training a couple times a week as well – this can include exercising with weights or resistance bands.1 You don’t have to go all in at first. Start slow and gradually increase the amount of physical activity, it also helps to find activities that you enjoy. If an extra boost is needed, try asking family or a friend to join you, or hiring a personal trainer. Be sure to speak with a health professional before beginning a new exercise program.
- Wear comfortable clothing and footwear
- Always warm up before exercise and make sure to properly stretch after exercising. This will help avoid discomfort and potential stiffness or injury in your joints and muscles.
- Begin your exercise slowly for the first few minutes and work your way up. Slow down as you come to the end of your activity.
- Stay hydrated
Your heart is the powerhouse to the whole body. By changing a few daily habits, you can be well on your way to a more active routine. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and making physical activity a part of your lifestyle are essential steps to not only keeping a healthy heart but an overall better quality of life.
*Always speak to your doctor before you change, start, or stop physical activity or exercise.
How much exercise is optimal for heart health? Retrieved March 15, 2021 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/how-much-exercise-is-optimal-for-heart-health.
Benefits of Exercise. MedlinePlus. Retrieved March 4, 2021 from https://medlineplus.gov/benefitsofexercise