Can Exercise Reverse or Prevent Heart Disease?
The news about exercise and heart health has been getting better, not worse, in recent years. Studies have shown that exercise can not only help prevent heart disease, but also actually reverse some of the disease’s effects on the body. While experts agree that the best way to stave off heart problems is through diet and exercise together, there are still plenty of questions regarding how much exercise you need, what kind of exercise you should do, and when you should be doing it.
Why Exercise Matters
In a study of over 33,000 men and women from 13 countries, physical activity proved to be even more important than diet for maintaining healthy arteries. Those who had low levels of exercise were more likely to have coronary heart disease compared to those who exercised regularly. It doesn’t matter if you run marathons or if you walk around your neighborhood; all that matters is that you move!
The Danger of Inactivity
Inactivity is twice as deadly as obesity. With heart disease responsible for nearly half of all deaths in America, it’s no surprise that the American Heart Association recommends that people get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, plus muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week. Our sedentary lifestyles are leading to skyrocketing cases of hypertension, coronary artery disease and Type 2 diabetes all fatal conditions that can be prevented by exercise. Of course, exercise isn’t a cure-all; if you have existing cardiovascular problems, you should still see your doctor. But getting active is one of the most effective ways to keep your ticker healthy.
The Benefits of Exercise
It is well known that exercise can help keep your weight in check and boost your energy. But it’s also widely believed that exercise may be able to reverse cardiovascular disease (CVD), even if you have already suffered a heart attack, stroke, or other CVD event. However, most research on exercise and CVD has been conducted in people with existing heart disease who take part in cardiac rehabilitation programs under medical supervision; these studies show improvements in heart function after only about three months of training. Still, some doctors believe that people who are at risk for CVD those with family histories of early onset disease could benefit from an ongoing regimen of regular aerobic activity starting as early as their teen years.
How Much Is Enough?
In general, adults should aim for at least 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise per week (moderate to vigorous physical activity that causes you to breathe harder). For most adults, aerobic activity includes any activity that gets your heart rate up and your breathing faster, such as: running; cycling; swimming laps; working out on an elliptical machine; playing basketball, soccer or other competitive sports in a non-contact setting. If you can’t achieve that level of activity due to a medical condition or injury (the talk test isn’t enough), as little as 30 minutes per day might help. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. They can make sure it’s safe for you and offer tips based on your personal needs and health history.