Regular exercise helps to fend off high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes as well as a host of other chronic diseases. Despite these well-publicised benefits, many South Africans aren’t physically active on a day-to-day basis. One reason could be people mistakenly believing that exercise requires heart-pounding exertion and profuse sweat. While that level of effort makes a lot of sense if you’re training for a race or other athletic event, it’s just not necessary if your main concern is staying healthy.
Unfortunately, many individuals have blurred the distinction between exercising to remain healthy and preserve your well-being as opposed to exercising for fitness in an athletic and competitive sense. The actual truth is that if you’re exercising for health, it takes very little effort to see enormous benefit.
Exercise For Better Heart Health
Being physically active is a massive step towards good heart health. It’s definitely one of your most effective tools to help you to:
- Strengthen the heart muscle,
- Keep your weight under control, and
- Ward off the artery damage from high cholesterol, high blood sugar as well as high blood pressure that may result in heart attack or even stroke.
It’s also very true that different types of exercise are required in order to provide complete fitness. Aerobic exercise – as well as resistance training – are the most important for heart health. Although flexibility doesn’t directly contribute to heart health, it’s nevertheless important as it provides a good foundation for performing aerobic and strength exercises more effectively.
So, How Much Is Enough?
Honestly speaking, the jury is still out on a definitive number of hours per week that you need to be exercising in order to ensure good heart health.
A recent large-scale study, which relied on objective data about exercise from more than 90 000 adults, bolsters the increasing body of evidence which states that almost any amount of physical activity seems to be good for cardiovascular health. There is no distinctive upper limit to the benefits.
Back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Jeremy Morris – who was a British epidemiologist – famously found that British bus conductors, who spent their days strolling aisles and climbing steps on the double-decker buses, were about half as likely to have a heart attack as the buses’ drivers, who sat all day.
Since then, countless epidemiological studies have uncovered similar links between physical activity and cardiovascular problems. In most, greater amounts of physical activity aligned closely with less risk of heart disease. In other words, people who moved a lot tended also to be people with sound hearts and arteries.
However, there is no definitive proof that walks and other activities directly strengthen people’s hearts, only that the two are linked. It remains conceivable that long-term, intense exercise might, at some point, stop being good for hearts. But in the same breath, for most of us increasing our exercise to much higher levels or more vigorous levels should substantially reduce our chances, later, for heart disease.
Although there is no conclusive word on how much exercise you need to do in order to maintain heart health, the bottom line is that exercising is good for the health of your body – and not just your heart. Check out our fitness courses to learn more about exercise.