Exercise for a Healthy Heart

The heart works as part of the cardiovascular system; an organ system within the body that facilitates the transmission of nutrients, hormones, oxygen, carbon dioxide, electrolytes, amino acids, and blood cells throughout the bloodstream. This circulatory system is essential for nutrient delivery to all cells, tissues and vital organs in the human body. The healthier the heart is, the more efficient the cardiovascular system is at this transmission process.

Heart health is affected by a number of factors, including genetics, age, gender, smoking, diet, level of physical activity, and the presence of other health issues, such as diabetes. Diet and exercise are particularly important, as these are factors that are within your ability to modify and control. Focusing on improving your diet and incorporating regular physical activity into your routine will play a vital role in maintaining and improving heart function and performance.

Cardiovascular Exercise and Heart Health

Cardiovascular activity refers to physical activity that involves sustained movement in order to stress the cardiovascular and respiratory systems (i.e. causes your heart rate to increase and breathing to become laboured). Commonly called aerobic exercise, this form of physical activity is diverse and can be adapted to any skill level and suit any preference. Some examples of cardiovascular activity include walking, running, cycling, swimming, playing sports, and cross-country skiing. Due to the versatility of this form of physical activity, cardiovascular exercise can be done by anyone and in any setting.

Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise:

  • Increased maximum rate of oxygen consumption
  • Improved resting heart rate
  • Improved circulatory and respiratory function
  • Strengthened heart muscle (improved ability to pump blood)
  • Improved elasticity of blood vessels
  • Improved cholesterol levels

Engaging in regular cardiovascular activity has also been shown to lower mortality rates and complications due to heart disease, stroke and hypertension.

Resistance Exercise and Heart Health

Resistance training involves controlled and precise movements that stress every major muscle group of the body. During proper resistance training, the musculoskeletal system, skeletal system and connective tissues are all engaged. Resistance training can be done with a variety of equipment, including free weights, exercise machines, exercise bands, and your own body weight.
Benefits of Resistance Exercise:

  • Increased lean body mass
  • Increased metabolic rate
  • Improved glucose metabolism
  • Improved blood pressure and circulation
  • Improved cholesterol levels

Resistance training also plays a major role in maintaining quality of life. Keeping your muscles and bones strong as you age will enable you to maintain mobility and independence and allow you to continue participating in the exercise and leisure activities you enjoy.