February is Heart Month – Quick facts on Exercise and Cardiovascular Health

What are the benefits of exercise and heart health?

Numerous studies have proven that regular exercise has a favorable effect on many of the established risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including:

  • Reduction in bodyweight and blood pressure
  • Reduction in bad, and an increase in good, cholesterol
  • Increased insulin sensitivity (controls glucose levels in the blood which lead to diabetes)

Many of the same studies identify that these benefits are especially effective when combined with other lifestyle modifications e.g. better nutrition, cessation of smoking and reduced alcohol consumption.

What are the risks?
For healthy individuals, the risk of a cardiac event during exercise is less than 1 in 800,000 hours of physical activity. This risk is greater in those with existing heart conditions, although can improve significantly with regular exercise.

Body weight vs Cardiac health
A sedentary person, regardless of their BMI (body mass index), has a 50 times greater risk of developing a cardiopulmonary complication than someone who exercises 5 times per week.

How much to do?
The 1996 US Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity & Health recommended at least 30min of modest activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. Modest activity in this report is considered any activity that is similar in intensity to brisk walking so take advantage of some of these exercise options at your local YMCA:

  • Cardio Equipment
  • Group Exercise Classes
  • Resistance Training (weights)
  • Swimming and Aquarobics
  • Running, Cycling, Hiking
  • Indoor and Outdoor Sports

Where to start [Take Action!] Book a Wellness Appointment with one of our coaches through Member Services at your local YMCA branch. Think of ways that you can increase the amount of incidental exercise you get during the day e.g. taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking at the back of the lot instead of fighting for the space closest to the entrance, finding a friend to go walking with after work or on weekends and explore new streets or trails around your home.

Please note:
If you currently have heart disease or are over 45 years of age and have 2 or more risk factors (immediate family member with heart disease before age 55, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle or obesity), you should consult your physician before starting any type of exercise.

For more detailed information: