Exercise for a healthy heart

Many studies and many expert bodies recognise that people who are more active or fit tend to develop less coronary heart disease (CHD) than their sedentary counterparts. It is also clear that if CHD develops in active or fit individuals, it occurs at a later age and tends to be less severe.

Regular exercise also reduces the risk of other diseases such as diabetes, some cancers, hypertension, stroke and osteoporosis. It can also reduce ‘bad’ (LDL and total) cholesterol and increase ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol, as well as improve the body’s insulin usage. Other benefits include weight loss, felling more positive about life, and sleeping better.

Exercise should not be an all or nothing approach. If you have not exercised for a long time, it is reasonable that you will work up to the recommended amount of exercise per day. Moving a bit more each day is always going to be better than sitting all day! Gradually increase the amount you are doing.  Go for a little longer or a little further each day. It is also a good idea to incorporate exercise into your everyday life. Instead of getting the closest carpark possible to work or the supermarket, park further away and walk the extra distance. Exercise is also much easier to keep doing if you do it with someone else. Find a walking or swimming partner, or join a group that is active such as a sporting group or another interest group such as bushwalking, gardening or birdwatching. There are fun-runs on frequently, and you don’t need to run! Set yourself a goal of participating in one, and gradually build up to it.

It is also beneficial for your health to do some muscle strengthening activities twice a week. These again, can be part of your daily activities, for example, if you are only buying a small amount at the supermarket, use a basket instead of a trolley. Muscle strengthening in everyday life generally includes activities that involve lifting, carrying or digging. Of course, you may also like to do some weight training at a gym.

As a rough guide, we recommend that you spend a minimum of three hours a week participating in moderate intensity exercise, where you get out of breath, and a bit sweaty.

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