Move it or lose it:
Exercise is key to a long, healthy life. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week cuts your chances of having high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol by up to 40 percent. It also plays a major role in lowering your risk of heart disease.
“Exercise is one of the most effective treatments for cardiovascular disease. It improves blood flow and heart function, reduces bad cholesterol and is one of the most effective treatments that increase the ‘good’ cholesterol in your blood,” said Dr. Scott Woodfield, cardiologist with Trident Health System. “More importantly, it doesn’t have to cost a thing; it can be done by nearly anyone; and there are no worries about side effects, interactions with other medications, or allergic reactions! You don’t have to run a marathon or play an organized sport. Just get out there and enjoy some moderate exercise regularly.”
In fact, studies have shown that exercise can be a more effective tool against heart disease than medication. A National Institutes of Health Diabetes Prevention Program study showed that people at high risk for diabetes and high blood pressure who added 150 minutes a week of physical activity lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease more than those taking the diabetes medication metformin.
At the Starting Line
If you are beginning to exercise regularly for the first time, consult a physician to make sure you are healthy enough for an exercise routine. The American Heart Association (americanheart.org) offers the following tips for getting started:
• Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
• Start slowly and build up to at least 30 minutes of activity. If you don’t have a 30-minute block of time, break the time into two 15-minute or three 10-minute segments.
• Exercise at the same time each day so it becomes a regular part of your life.
• Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercising.
• Find a buddy to join you. You are more likely to stick with an exercise plan if you have company.
• Note your activities and subsequent energy level on a calendar to keep track of how exercising makes you feel.
• Do a variety of activities to keep your interest up.
• Don’t get discouraged if you have to stop for a while. Start again gradually as soon as you can.
• Don’t exercise right after meals, when it’s very hot, or when you just don’t feel well.
Sneak It In
Exercise doesn’t always have to come in the form of a structured activity. Adding physical activity to your daily routine in any form benefits your heart. Take an extra step and make exercise a routine part of your day. Some ideas for incorporating exercise include:
• Walk when the opportunity is available. If you live close enough to a store or work just down the street from a restaurant, take the opportunity to walk there instead of driving.
• Institute a ban on elevator use. Climbing a few stories will raise your heart rate and strengthen your legs.
• Play with your kids. Tag, swinging, and riding bikes all count as physical activity.
• Park farther away from the door at the mall or grocery store and walk. Pushing the extra weight of the shopping cart will add to the benefits on the walk back.
DID YOU KNOW?
The death rate for heart attack patients who participated in an exercise program was 20 to 25 percent lower than those who did not.
A person’s fitness level is a more important predictor of death than established risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Most risk factors can be lowered or eliminated through exercise.
Moderately active people have a 20 percent lower risk and highly active people have 27 percent lower risk of stroke or stroke death than inactive people.