February is National Heart Health Month, and during this time, awareness of a variety of heart conditions are highlighted. Cardiovascular disease is both the UK’s and the world’s number one killer and it’s estimated that every 8 minutes someone in the UK dies from a heart related disease. It’s important to understand the things that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well the ways to help protect yourself from it.
Meditation, eating a healthy diet and cutting down on alcohol are all things that can help boost the health of your heart, however exercise is also a big contributor for keeping your heart in check too! In this blog we’ll discuss 8 ways your heart can benefit from exercise.
The potential to improve overall health with exercise is pretty impressive. However, it is reported that over 37% of adults in the UK are not meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines. For most adults, this means getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like a brisk walk, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, like running, each week.
We all know that regular exercise strengthens muscles and bones and has a whole heap of other benefits, but do we know the impact it has on our heart specifically?
Check out 8 ways that exercise can help out your heart:
Lowers blood pressure
A healthy heart pumps out more blood with each beat, enabling it to function more efficiently. This lowers stress on the heart and the surrounding arteries, potentially reducing blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, including exercise into your daily routine could help lower it. If you don’t have high blood pressure, regular exercise could help prevent it becoming a problem as you age.
Improves blood flow
Regular cardio-based physical activity enables the heart to improve its blood flow in the small vessels around it; where blockages of fatty deposits can build up over time. Better circulation in these areas may prevent heart attacks. Research even shows that regular exercise can cause the body to create more physical connections between these small blood vessels. This means the blood has more ways to travel to where it needs to go.
Improves workout efficiency
As you begin a new workout regime that includes cardio activity, it can take some time for your body to adjust to it. However, the more exercise you do, the better you get at it and the quicker your body will be able to pull its needed oxygen from your blood during the workouts. Because of this, people who work out regularly have hearts that perform better under stress. Regular cardio also allows your body to recover quicker after exercise.
Many studies show that exercise is closely linked to positive improvements in cholesterol. This includes increasing the amount of HDL ‘good’ cholesterol and possibly lowering LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol, by as much as 10%.
Decreases risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes
When combined with strength training, regular aerobic exercise such as cycling, walking or swimming can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by up to 30%. It can also help reduce the risk of developing diabetes by over 50% by allowing the muscles to better process glycogen, a fuel for energy, which when impaired leads to excessive blood sugars.
Helps strengthen muscles
The heart is a muscle and just like with other muscles in the body, exercise strengthens it. A combination of aerobic workouts (which, depending on your fitness level, can include walking, running, swimming and over heart pumping exercises) and strength training (weight lifting and resistance training) is considered best for heart health. These exercises improve the muscles’ ability to draw oxygen from the blood that is circulating round your body. This reduces the need for the heart to work harder to pump more blood to your muscles.
Exercise is key to weight control
Especially when combined with a smart diet, being physically active is an essential component for losing weight and even more important for keeping it off. Being overweight puts stress on the heart and causes risk of heart diseases and stroke.
Stress hormones can put an extra burden on the heart. However, exercise – whether aerobic (like running), resistance (like weight training) or flexibility focused (like yoga) can help you relax and reduce stress. Exercise causes the body to produce feel-good endorphins, which when pumped around the body leave us feeling positive and happy.