How exercise helps your heart function optimally
Your heart is at the very center of your cardiovascular system and is one of the most important organs of the human body, involved in many of the daily functions that keep the body going day after day. This underscores why it is important to have a healthy heart.
Simply put, a healthy heart is vital to your overall health.
Asides a healthy diet, regular exercise is an all-important way to lower the risk of heart disease. It is said that a sedentary lifestyle, where your job requires you to be at a desk all day and when you are involved in little or no physical activity, increases the risk of dying from heart disease by double. This puts you at the same level of risk as someone who smokes, has high cholesterol or high blood pressure faces when it comes to high blood pressure.
Meanwhile, exercising for as little as 30 minutes or more for at least 4 days a week can help to lose weight, lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.
Benefits of exercising
You first need to understand that exercise is not just for all the other muscles in your body except for the heart. Being a muscle itself, your heart needs just as much exercise as your other muscles do.
Here is how exercising benefits your heart.
Keeps your blood pressure under control: Just as exercise strengthens the other muscles in the human body, it also helps the heart muscle become more efficient in its work, which means it enables it to better pump blood through the body. Because your heart is now equipped to push out more blood with each beat, it doesn’t have to work as hard, beating more slowly, and keeping your blood pressure under control.
Better blood flow: When you engage in physical activity, there is better blood flow to the small blood vessels around your heart, leading to fewer clogs and lowering your risks of a heart attack. When you also exercise, your body makes more connections between these small blood vessels, which also means less risk of blockage, as there are other ways for your blood to travel through should the usual path be narrowed or blocked by fatty deposits.
Higher levels of good cholesterol: When you exercise, the levels of HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol in your body increases. This kind of cholesterol lowers the risk of developing heart disease by helping the body get rid of LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
Allows your heart to work better under stress: Exercising regularly empowers your heart’s tissue as well as other of your body’s tissues to do a better job of pulling oxygen from the blood. This means that your heart can work better under stress. As you exercise more and more, you tend to get less winded during high-intensity activities.
The best type of exercise for your heart
To derive the best benefit from exercising, go for aerobic exercises, as these make you breathe more deeply and forces your heart to work harder in order to pump blood.
When you engage in aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, swimming, running, dancing, and bicycling, you raise your heart rate and make it work more effectively.
To get the very best, make sure to alternate exercise days with days of rest, in order to give your body a chance to heal and recover before being put through the paces again.
It’s not so complicated to improve your heart health with exercise. For those of us who consider ourselves very busy and who cannot even begin to think of the time to dedicate to exercise, no need to sweat.
You don’t need an hour of jogging every day. You don’t need to exercise too hard. All you need is light to moderate exercise.
As previously mentioned, just 30 minutes of exercise on most days will suffice. And the 30 minutes doesn’t have to be in one slot. You can choose to do two 15-minute sessions of exercise or three 10-minute sessions if you cannot find 30 whole minutes at once per day.
Fitting enough exercise into your busy schedule
If you are busy and don’t know how to carve out 30 minutes of your day to dedicate to exercising in order to reap the benefits of heart health, here are simple actions you can take to raise your heart rate in the course of your day:
- Use your lunch or coffee break to take a brisk, brief walk.
- Use the stairs rather than the elevator.
- Walk or cycle to work.
- Park at the farthest end of parking lots, so that you always have a farther distance to walk.
- Become your own gardener and rake your own leaves, mow your own lawn.
Use the talk/sing test
To determine if your light to moderate exercise is counted as exercise at all and if it is effective, try the talk/sing test. Exercise must always be vigorous enough to raise your heart rate.
You must be able to talk but unable to sing when exercising. If you try to talk and cannot, your exercise is too vigorous. And if you try to sing and succeed, it is not vigorous enough.
Never forget diet
Never forget that diet is an important part of keeping your heart healthy. For a clean bill of health and to maintain your heart health, make sure that your diet consists of fruits, protein (particularly fish which is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids), whole grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and polyunsaturated fats.