The American Heart Association recommends that adults aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. The benefits of exercise are seemingly endless. It boosts your mood, helps fight anxiety and depression, lowers cortisol, improves mental clarity, helps you sleep better at night, reduces your risk of strokes, and helps you improve your heart health.
But have you ever wondered how exercise helps your heart? That’s exactly the question that board-certified cardiologist Dr. Henock Saint-Jaques aims to explore in this blog.
Here are four ways that exercise improves your heart health.
1. Exercise helps to lower your blood pressure
Blood pressure is often called the silent killer because you can have high blood pressure and not even realize it. There are no symptoms until you reach a severe form of high blood pressure called hypertensive crisis. Left untreated, high blood pressure can increase your risk of heart attacks and strokes. Thankfully, high blood pressure is easily managed with medication and/or lifestyle modifications, such as exercise.
Your blood pressure is the force of your blood beating against the walls of your blood vessels. It's a measure of your systolic pressure (the pressure during a contraction) and diastolic pressure (the force during the relaxed phase). A good blood pressure reading is 120/80 mm hg or lower. Exercise can help you reach this healthy blood pressure reading (or maintain a healthy level) because exercise makes your heart stronger. When your heart is stronger, it means your heart can pump more blood with less effort. In turn, this reduces the force on your arteries and lowers your blood pressure.
2. Exercise strengthens your heart
Did you know your heart is a muscle? And like all muscles, it benefits from regular exercise.
Specifically, exercise strengthens your heart’s ability to pump more blood with ease. Your left ventricle is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood out of your heart and out into the rest of the body. Regular exercise strengthens this ventricle, making it perform more efficiently.
3. Regular exercise helps control your cholesterol
Cholesterol is often misunderstood. You need cholesterol to help produce hormones, but not all cholesterol is good. Lower-density cholesterol (LDL) is the “bad cholesterol” that can lead to blockages in your blood vessels.
On the other hand, the “good cholesterol” or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol can help lower your risk for heart disease by absorbing cholesterol and taking it back to your liver. Exercise helps your heart by reducing the LDL cholesterol and increasing the HDL cholesterol.
4. Exercise helps you lose belly fat
Many people start exercising to lose weight, and while this can change the number on the scale, it also improves your heart health. Carrying excess weight in the abdominal region strains your heart. Increased abdominal weight can increase your risk of heart attack and strokes, even if your BMI is normal. Exercise helps you lose excess fat, including excess belly fat.
Exercising and losing weight can also help your heart by reducing your risk of other conditions that affect your heart, including diabetes.
Getting started with exercise safely
As with any exercise regimen, if you’re considering starting a new exercise routine, talk to our team of cardiologists at Harlem Cardiology in East Harlem, New York, first. While exercise is good for your heart, it’s important to get medically cleared before working out, especially if you have a heart condition, if you’ve never exercised before, or if it’s been a while since you worked out.
Here are a few tips to keep your exercise sessions safe:
- Always warm up and cool down
- Cross-train (to prevent overuse injuries)
- Wear the right shoes for your intended activity
- Stay hydrated
And the best part? You don’t need to join a gym or participate in intense programs. Any cardiovascular activity provides these heart-friendly benefits. This includes walking, golfing (especially if you walk instead of using a cart), dancing, Zumba, aerobics classes, biking, spinning, rowing, and kayaking.
To schedule an appointment at our Madison Avenue office, call us at 646-381-2181. Or, you can request an appointment online any time day or night.