We were designed to move!  If we move on a regular basis then we can expect to experience an improvement in our health and strength, find our energy levels rise which in turn can help with our emotional and mental well being.

By exercising on a regular basis our bodies adapt/change to the demands that we make, this then increases our ability to move well and efficiently and our bodies become stronger and healthier as a result.

If you read the article “EXERCISE HELPS AND HINTS”, you will see what sort of exercise is needed so as to gain health benefits.

So what are the benefits of exercising/taking regular physical activity?

1.  Stroke volume increases. This means that every time your heart beats, more oxygen/blood is pumped around your body.

2.  Resting heart rate is lowered. As a result of the heart being able to get more blood around the body, the heart gets stronger and more efficiently at pumping.  This then results in your resting heart rate going down because it can do the same amount of work as before but with less effort.

This particular benefit has huge implications for those who suffer with angina.

Angina is very often triggered by physical activity and if you suffer angina but also wear a heart rate monitor, you may have noticed that once your heart rate rises to a certain number you begin to experience the symptoms of angina.

Angina symptoms are unique to everyone, i.e. heaviness in the chest, feelings of indigestion, pain in the shoulder, throat, to name but a few.

So let’s say for example you are working at a heart rate of 90 and are walking at

3mph, you then become aware of the feelings that you get as the angina starts.

Your aim should then be, having done a proper 15 minute warm up, to work where you do not experience any angina symptoms, at a heart rate which takes you to 8 – 10 beats below where angina is experience.    So for this example a heart rate of 80 – 82 bpm and this might be a walking speed of 2.5mph.    By training at this intensity (2.5mph) you will find that over time the heart rate does not need to beat at 82 for the 2.5mph but say 75 bpm.   This then means the walking speed can then be increased so that it brings the heart rate back up to 82.

Therefore more work can be done before angina is triggered, this then means everyday activities become easier and angina occurs less frequently.

3. Blood pressure is reduced. When the heart contracts it pushes blood out of the aorta into the body, but before it can do so it has to overcome the pressure in the aorta itself.

When your blood pressure is measured the top number is reading how much pressure there has to be in the heart for the heart to then pump out the blood into the body. This top number is known as the Systolic phase.

A systolic reading of 180 means the heart has to work much harder than a reading of 140.   The great news is that exercise will help to reduce your B.P.

4.  Gives more time for the heart to receive its own supply of blood.

When the heart contracts there follows a very brief period of time when it relaxes and fills with blood.  It is during this time that the heart receives a supply of oxygen for itself through the coronary arteries, and is known as the diastolic phase.

The lower number of your B.P. reading represents this.  Having a lower number, for example 85 as opposed to 100 means there is a longer period of time for this filling and supply to take place.

5.  Increased capillarisation. By training at the right intensity (which is 60 – 80% of your maximum heart rate) for 30 – 60 minutes, three to five times per week, places demands on the body to become more efficient at supplying and using oxygen.     This training stimulates the body to grow new capillaries into the working muscles.

The working muscles are obviously your legs but your heart is also a muscle, so as these new capillaries grow in the heart and increase the oxygen supply to the heart, it can potentially bypass any small residual blockages, by going around them.  Obviously this does not happen overnight, but by regularly taking physical activity (most days of the week) it will happen.

I work with a semi professional runner who had a massive heart attack.  When they did an angiogram they found that the only reason he had survived was because his heart had grown new blood vessels around the blockages in the coronary arteries. For this individual it saved his life.

6.  The elasticity of blood vessels is enhanced. By keeping your blood vessels with good elasticity they will respond well to increases in blood pressure, so keeping the blood flowing smoothly.

7.  Reduction in platelet stickiness. Keeping the blood thin means there is less likelihood of clots.

8. Increases HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol helps to control the rate at which plaque is being laid down in the artery walls (heart and body).

A recent studies have showed that, by eating a low fat diet and burning 1,200 – 2,000 calories per week through activity, (which is equivalent to walking 12 -20 miles per week) the amount of plaque being laid down was reduced and it was also found that some of the existing plaque was removed.*

9.  Helps in weight control. It is a case of maintaining the energy balance.  If you are burning more calories than you are using then you will lose weight.

10.  Improves insulin tolerance. Helps those with diabetes control their blood sugar levels.

11.  Reduces stress levels. Exercise is a stressor and causes adrenaline to be put into the blood stream.   Adrenaline makes the heart beat fast but as we have seen, once the heart becomes stronger the heart rate is reduced; this in turn means that not so much adrenaline is required.   This in turn reduces stress, tension, anxiety and depression.  See article on stress.

12.  Keeps the bones strong. Doing weight bearing activities such as walking keeps the bones strong.  With this in mind it is worth noting that cycling and swimming support the body weight so will not improve bone health.   As a result of keeping the bones strong there is less risk of osteoporosis.  Please note men can get osteoporosis too.

13.  Improves posture. Having bad posture not only causes muscle imbalances and tension in the body, but can support a negative mental attitude.

Exercise makes you feel more confident, and will help you to feel good about yourself.  Having good posture can also help with digestion, if you slouch over the table when eating it will be hard for your stomach to digest your food, but if you sit up straight, you will not only breath better but also allow your body to digest your food properly as you will then sit or stand tall.

14.  Helps control many of the main risk factors not just for Coronary Heart Disease but also some cancers and diabetes via the above.

Besides all the above you can expect to see:

Improved muscle tone and strength, Improve balance and joint flexibility, and improved sleeping patterns.

For those with Heart Failure it will also help you control your symptoms.

*DOH at least 5 aweek


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