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How Does Exercise Improve Heart Health

There are two types of people – those who love to exercise and those who don’t. Those in the first camp probably already know first-hand the benefits of exercise, but if you don’t wake up every morning with a burning desire to hit the gym or the track, we will offer you inspiration.

Yes, exercise can help you get into shape and help elevate your mood, but did you know it’s also really good for your heart?

Here are six ways that regularly hitting the treadmill, pool or track improves your heart health:

  • Exercise reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke. Heart disease and stroke are the nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers, respectively. To lower your risk, the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). This can be broken down to thirty minutes a day, five times a week.
  • Exercise helps you lose weight. It’s simple—the food you eat contains calories and aerobic exercise burns calories. If the number of calories you burn (including the ones you burn while exercising) exceeds the number you take in, you can lose weight. Being overweight has shown to put stress on your heart and increases your risk of heart disease. Managing your weight is essential to good heart health. While you’re at it, why not work on improving your nutrition , too?
  • Exercise makes you stronger. Exercise builds strong muscles, and your heart is a muscle. A combination of aerobic exercise (walking, running, swimming) and strength training (weight lifting, resistance training) increases oxygen delivery to your muscles, lessening the burden on your heart to pump blood to the muscles.
  • Exercise lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, both of which affect your risk of heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise a week, to get your numbers down.
  • Exercise reduces stress. When your body is stressed, it releases the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol. Chronic stress raises your heart rate and blood pressure, which is bad for your heart. Exercise can help you relax. As an added bonus, when you exercise, your body releases mood-enhancing endorphins.
  • Exercise can help you live longer. Studies have shown a direct correlation between physical activity and lower mortality rates, with most studies showing a 30–60 percent lower morality rate for people who are physically active versus those who are sedentary. A study conducted over 12 years among men in Oslo concluded that thirty minutes of physical activity six days a week was associated with about a 40 percent lower risk of mortality among study respondents.  

Regular aerobic exercise is essential to good health. Not only will it reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, but it has also been proven to stop or slow the development of diabetes, and to reduce chronic inflammation, which helps your body cope with disease.

Interested in speaking with a cardiologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann? You can schedule an appointment online or by calling (713) 222-2273.