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Heart Disease Prevention: How Exercise Improves Heart Health

Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your heart

Exercise has tremendous health benefits for the rest of your body too. Regular exercise can help you prevent heart disease and conditions that increase your risk for heart disease, like diabetes. And if you don’t exercise enough, your risk for heart disease increases significantly. When exercise is done correctly, it helps improve the efficiency of your cardiovascular system. It also strengthens your muscles, lowers your blood pressure, helps you control your weight, helps slow the progression of diabetes, reduces stress, reduces inflammation (which can contribute to heart disease), and can help you quit smoking.

Walk the walk for your heart

There are about as many variations of exercise as there are foods, so how can you figure out which type of exercise is best for your heart and for you? Lots of exercises are great, but is there one that stands out above the rest? Yes. Most doctors recommend walking above all other types of exercise for improving and maintaining heart health. A leisurely stroll is fine, but it’s not enough to give your heart all the benefits of exercise. You need to walk fast enough to get your heart rate up.

Other exercises are good too, such as jogging, cycling, dancing and swimming. They keep your heart rate up, and they aren’t as tough on your joints as some forms of exercise can be. Walking may be even better than running when it comes to your heart. One study showed that between runners and walkers who burned the same number of calories, walkers reduced their risk of heart disease twice as much as walkers did. That’s probably because they exercised longer to burn the same calories, but it also may be because walking puts less strain on your heart. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes per day of fast walking at least five days per week.

Strength training is another good form of exercise for your heart. To optimize your cardiovascular health and your overall health, it’s best to include strength training exercises into your routine.

What is the best exercise for people with heart conditions?

There isn’t a magic exercise prescription that works for all people with all types of heart conditions; however, most doctors agree that walking is safe and effective for almost everyone. Walking a little bit every day is even recommended for people who are recovering after a heart attack or heart surgery. It’s an exercise that almost anyone can do, regardless of age or health.

The one thing you can and should do is to keep moving once you get the go ahead from your doctor. Just getting up and walking around for a few minutes every hour can have a positive effect on your life.

Can too much exercise hurt your heart?

While it’s very important to exercise, there is evidence that too much exercise can actually be bad for you. So the question is, how much is too much? One large study of more than 3100 young adults over 25 years showed evidence that those who exercised 450 minutes per week were 27 percent more likely to have significant coronary artery blockage than those who exercised 150 minutes per week or less. Other studies showed some negative effects of exercising too vigorously for too many hours.

If you’re concerned about how much exercise you should get, talk to your doctor. And remember, there haven’t been any studies that showed an increased risk of exercising 150 minutes per week, but there have been studies that showed an increased risk of developing heart disease if you don’t exercise at all or have a generally sedentary lifestyle.

If you are training for very strenuous physical endeavors (like running a marathon) and want to ensure your heart is healthy enough, consider making an appointment at the Beaumont Cardiovascular Performance Clinic.

How to tell if it’s okay to exercise

If you’re wondering whether or not it’s safe for you to exercise, ask your doctor. It’s always better to be cautious.

Any time you’re exercising, pay attention to your body. If you have any signs of symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 or seek medical attention. If you just don’t feel right, take a break and let your doctor know. You don’t have to push yourself to exertion to get health benefits from exercising. In fact, it’s better if you don’t push that hard. Moderate exercise is usually best.

The Beaumont difference

Beaumont is a world leader in innovative heart care. Our heart and vascular teams provide the most advanced treatment options. We have specialized heart care centers throughout Metro Detroit that offer technologies to care for people with heart disease.

Learn more about our heart centers and clinics, like the Corewell Health William Beaumont University Hospital Ernst Cardiovascular Center, Atrial Fibrillation Clinics, Heart Valve Clinics, the Ministrelli Women’s Heart Center and the Center for Heart and Vascular Services, and find out why more patients in Southeast Michigan prefer Beaumont for heart care.

Start your search at Beaumont. Find a Beaumont cardiologist, heart surgeon or cardiothoracic surgeon near you.