Cardio exercise for a healthy heart
2nd February 2015
What's the connection between doing regular exercise and keeping your heart in shape? Christopher Allen, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, has the answers.
What role can cardiovascular exercise play in maintaining a healthy heart?
The heart is a muscle, and like the other muscles in your body it needs regular physical activity to stay healthy. This can help to make the heart more efficient, reduce your weight, reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and help to control your blood sugar if you’re diabetic.
The type of activity that helps your heart most is called moderate intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic activity is a repetitive rhythmic exercise involving large muscle groups such as your legs, shoulders and arms.
How much cardiovascular exercise should a healthy adult aim for each week?
The recommended guidance for adults is a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week, but if this seems like a lot, don’t worry. You can break it down into ten minute sessions throughout the day and build up from there.
Moderate intensity means activity that makes you feel warmer, your heart beat faster, and makes your breathing quicker but so you’re still able to speak in sentences. Everyday activities count, so look out for opportunities to be active during the day. If you haven’t been active for a while, try building up gradually over a couple of weeks.
What about the over-60s and over-70s? Should older adults be aiming for the same amount of exercise or less?
It’s just as important to be active as you get older and it’s never too late to start. Older adults should aim for the minimum recommended guidance of 150 minutes as well.
Physical activity can help you avoid a range of health conditions including cardiovascular disease (CVD). If you have a condition already, it can help you manage it better. And it can also help you maintain your independence as you get older.
What is your advice for someone with a heart condition?
If you have a heart condition, it is still very important to keep physically active, as this will help to maintain your heart health or may help to prevent your heart condition from getting worse. There are many different ways to keep active, and it’s important to find activities that are safe and right for you. It’s also important that you build your activity level up gradually.
If you already have a heart condition, it is important to talk with your doctor, nurse, cardiac rehab team, physiotherapist or exercise specialist about the best way to increase your level of physical activity. This is especially important if you’re not used to doing physical activity.
Find out more
Visit our Healthy Heart hub for lifestyle tips and articles on heart conditions.
You'll find further in-depth information about cardiac health on the British Heart Foundation (BHF) website. On the first Friday in February, as a part of Heart Month, the BHF is asking the nation to join the fight for every heartbeat and show their support by wearing red to fund life-saving heart research. Whoever you are doing it for, and whatever you decide to wear, it’s easy for your workplace, family or friends to take part. Here's how to join the BHF's Wear It. Beat It. campaign.