How Exercise Improves Heart Health

American Heart Month

As we continue with our breakdown of American Heart Month,  we will be focusing today’s blog post on how exercise benefits your heart. If you missed last week’s topic of creating a heart healthy diet, click here!

As explained by John Hopkins Medicine and Harvard Health, exercise is the best gift you can give your heart. Studies show that people who exercise regularly are less likely to suffer a sudden heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac event. This is because physical activity helps to control or modify many of the risk factors for heart disease. In fact, Johns Hopkins expert Kerry Stewart, Ed.D. states “For certain heart conditions, exercise can be as powerful as some medications.” This is because exercise helps to control or modify many of the risk factors for heart disease.

How Exercise Improves Heart Health

As outlined by John Hopkins Medicine, listed below are ways that regular exercise benefits your heart!

  • Exercise works like beta-blocker medication to slow the heart rate and lower your overall blood pressure.
  • Being physically active is an essential component maintaining a healthy weight, helps optimize heart health.
  • Exercise improves your muscles’ ability to draw oxygen from the circulating blood, which reduces how hard your heart has to work.
  • Exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress, which helps prevent stress hormones from putting any extra burden on your heart.
  • With regular exercise, chronic inflammation is reduced as the body adapts to the challenge of exercise on many bodily systems.
  • Regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by over 50% by allowing the muscles to better process glycogen.

How To Start Exercising

The American Heart Association recommends combining aerobic exercise with resistance training. Together, these two categories of exercise produce the greatest benefit for preventing and managing heart disease. If you are new to exercising, you will notice that there is a lot of information out there on getting started. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed before you even get started. Luckily, Elizabeth Millard, ACE certified personal trainer and Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher, has outlined an easy to follow, 4 step process that will help you kickstart your fitness journey!

  1. Start With Walking: When you first start exercising, it can be stressful on your joints. This is especially true if you are carrying any extra weight. Walking is low-impact, and therefore, a great starting point. Try switching up locations, having friends join you, or bring your dog along! Combining exercise with time outdoors and socialization is great for both your physical and mental health.
  2. Focus On Short Term Goals: When you set short term, achievable goals you are doing yourself a huge favor. With each goal you complete, you will feel proud and more motivated to continue.
  3. Build Intensity: As you begin to feel stronger, you can start adding more intensity. If you are walking outside, start alternating between a regular pace and speed walking. If you are on a treadmill, work on adding speed and/or an incline. You can also start looking into strength training options, such as walking with weights, using resistance bands, or doing body weight exercises to warm up for your walk.
  4. Keep Exploring: Never view your workouts as a punishment or work. This will kill your motivation and your desire to continue. If you start to notice these feelings, switch things up and explore different options. Go for a hike, pick up an activity such as tennis, or schedule regular pick up games with friends. Redirect your thoughts on how good you feel and how you are able to do more than you used to.
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