It goes without saying that your heart is one of the most essential organs in your body and ensuring it’s kept healthy is essential to a long and comfortable life. Shockingly heart and related cardiovascular diseases cause more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK according to a leading charity and this accounts for over 179,000 deaths every single year. These deaths are said to cause a cost of approximately £19 billion the economy and in many cases can be prevented. Statistics from the same charity suggest that Cardiovascular Disease is the UK’s biggest killer.
There are many things you can do to keep your heart in tip top condition and living a healthy and active lifestyle is one of them. The numbers of people dying from strokes and heart disease could be significantly decreased if more people were educated and aware of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and started to make changes to that effect.
Basic lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking, cutting down alcohol intake and eating a healthy diet are the beginnings of adopting the right type of lifestyle whilst incorporating exercise into your daily or weekly routine is also extremely beneficial for keeping your heart in the best possible condition. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can still make positive changes towards a healthier, more active lifestyle.
Being active and exercising is essential for keeping your heart healthy because your heart is simply a muscle, like all the others in your body. If you’ve not been active for some time even incorporating a little exercise into your day will help your heart become stronger, improve its pumping ability giving you enhanced stamina and even more energy. What’s more, taking steps to becoming more active will also improve your body’s ability to extract oxygen from your blood through its many tissues and help you maintain a healthy level of body fat. Your metabolism may quicken also.
Statistics from the NHS suggest that people who fall into the overweight category are 80% more likely to suffer from heart disease. There are three main types of exercise vital for your all-round fitness and keeping your heart in the best possible shape. Let’s look at them in turn.
Aerobic Exercise, which you may know as cardiovascular, is especially important in preventing the development of coronary heart disease. Cardio exercise is any activity which increases your breathing rate and leads to you needing to breathe more deeply. Activities include walking, running, dancing or any other aerobic activities using gym equipment including steppers, treadmills and rowing machines.
Aerobic exercise increases the strength of your heart muscle by improving the body’s ability to transfer oxygen from the blood to the rest of the body. Your body also learns to use oxygen more efficiently as you exercise more.
Resistance training is exercises designed to strengthen your muscles and bones, as well as protecting your joints from risk of injury. This type of exercise is commonly carried out by using a range of weights, either free or those found on machines at the gym. However, even carrying heavy shopping bags is a step towards training your body’s muscles. Yoga is another type of resistance exercise which also uses your body weight and trains your muscles to become stronger and more flexible.
Resistance training doesn’t directly benefit your heart like aerobic exercises but it does help your body maintain healthy levels of fat and muscle, giving your heart a fighting chance at staying fit. Your all-round fitness is relevant to keeping your heart disease-free.
Your exercise regime needs to contain stretching exercises to ensure your muscles get the chance to relax as well as lengthen, as these actions encourage blood flow improvement and keeping supple also helps you move more easily. Medical specialists suggest everyone should perform stretching exercises for five to ten minutes each day.
Medical professionals may also suggest that those already at risk of or suffering from heart problems or disease should take up a more organised stretching activity such as Pilates or yoga. Both these types of exercise are considered safe for those living with heart problems, however as always it is recommended you speak to your own healthcare team before undertaking any activity different from your usual routine.
Where you choose to exercise is up to you. Starting off slowly with a few stretches and resistance training sessions at home, followed by a brisk stroll is fine but for the best results it is definitely worth consulting your local gym too. Visiting your local gym isn’t the only way to keep your heart in check but the range of equipment available is likely to be far superior to what you have in your own home.
Having a healthy heart is essential for a healthy lifestyle and exercise is an integral part to keeping it in the best possible shape.
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