Exercise and the Heart

There is a lot of talk these days about improving heart health. Every day people are being told by their doctors to look after their ticker, usually through eating better and getting more exercise.

While a healthy diet can seem like a bit of a bore, especially if it means having to give up some of your favourite treats, exercise can be a fun and enjoyable pastime if you find a sport you love. The world of fitness is so varied that with a bit of research you are sure to find something which is right for you, be it ice-hockey, swimming, boxing or even home exercise equipment!

Making an effort to find the right activity is definitely worth it considering the huge benefits exercise can have across many different areas of your life. People often report feeling energised by their activity and enjoying the endorphins or ‘happy hormones’ that it stimulates. If you do a team or social sport like rugby or bowling, exercise can be a great way to meet new people too.

But the most significant impact is sure to be on your health. Doing some kind of ‘cardio’ activity is a sensible way to look after your heart. Potential activities include running, aerobics, cycling or anything else that gets your heart pumping faster. Doing so will mean that the heart becomes stronger over time, which in turn means it will push blood more effectively around the body. This is vitally important as blood carries oxygen and essential nutrients to your tissues and takes away waste products, such as carbon dioxide, which will cause problems if left to build up where they are.

Interestingly, exercise also stimulates the production of new blood vessels. This allows blood to flow through new places, meaning that your circulation is more efficient. Resistance training with weights will also increase the size of blood vessels meaning each is able to carry more blood at every pump.

Doing some exercise can also help broader attempts to maintain normal cholesterol levels. Normal cholesterol levels are important as 50% of us here in the UK are over the recommended level, even though elevated cholesterol is one of (multiple) factors for heart disease. While exercise does not lower cholesterol by itself, being unfit can increase your chance of the kind of heart problems linked to high cholesterol levels, so increasing your fitness levels is a great way to minimise risks. The NHS-recommended normal cholesterol levels are 5mmol/L or less for the average adult and 4mmol/L or less for those considered at high risk of heart disease.

There are lots of other positive potential benefits of exercise that are too numerous to go into here: preventing dementia, increasing libido, enabling you to run for the bus… Whatever the reason, you’ll feel great doing it and start reaping the many rewards in no time.