Exercise for a healthy heart
Keeping active is one of the key steps towards protecting heart health.
Being inactive is one of the top risk factors for heart disease.
The NHS recommends all adults do at least 150 minutes of exercise a week.
Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean taking out a gym membership, just walking a bit further can help.
Seek medical advice before starting a new exercise programme.
Exercise heart benefits
Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, has many benefits. It can:
- Strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system
- Improve your circulation and help your body use oxygen better
- Improve your heart failure symptoms
- Increase energy levels so you can do more activities without becoming tired or short of breath
- Increase endurance
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve muscle tone and strength
- Improve balance and joint flexibility
- Strengthen bones
- Help reduce body fat and help you reach a healthy weight
- Help reduce stress, tension, anxiety and depression
- Boost self-image and self-esteem
- Improve sleep
- Make you feel more relaxed and rested
- Make you look fit and feel healthy
How do I get started?
Always check with your doctor first before starting an exercise programme. Your doctor can help you find a programme that matches your level of fitness and physical condition. Here are some questions to ask:
- How much exercise can I do each day?
- How often can I exercise each week?
- What type of exercise should I do?
- What type of activities should I avoid?
- Should I take my medication(s) at a certain time around my exercise schedule?
- Do I have to take my pulse while exercising?
What type of exercise is best?
Exercise can be divided into three basic types:
- Stretchingor slow lengthening of the muscles. Stretching the arms and legs before and after exercising helps prepare the muscles for activity and helps prevent injury and muscle strain. Regular stretching also increases your range of motion and flexibility.
- Cardiovascular or aerobic activity is steady physical activity using large muscle groups. This type of exercise strengthens the heart and lungs and improves the body's ability to use oxygen. Aerobic exercise has the most benefits for your heart. Over time, aerobic exercise can help decrease your heart rate and blood pressure and improve your breathing (since your heart won't have to work as hard during exercise).
- Strengthening exercises are repeated muscle contractions (tightening) until the muscle becomes tired. For people with heart failure, many strengthening exercises are not recommended.
What are examples of aerobic exercises?
Aerobic exercises include: walking, jogging, skipping, cycling (stationary or outdoor), cross-country skiing, skating, rowing and low-impact aerobics or water aerobics.