There is no question that exercising requires some serious heart. What may not be as clear, however, is how much your heart requires serious exercise. Even if you think you know how beneficial exercise is to heart health, I encourage you to keep reading, because this article is not about how beneficial exercise is to your heart health, but rather how essential it is to your heart health – and your life.
Now, when we talk about “heart health”, we’re actually talking about “cardiovascular health.” Your cardiovascular health is essentially your heart’s ability to transport your blood through a closedcircuit system of vessels. The blood you transport supplies your body with the essential nutrients it requires to sustain itself…or rather to sustain your life. Should I continue, or is it already clear how important your cardiovascular health is to your livelihood? Great! Let’s talk about exercise.
You may already know that daily exercise reduces your risk of developing cardiovascular disease (in turn, greatly reducing your chances of experiencing a heart attack and stroke), but you may not know why. Cardiovascular disease occurs when too much plaque builds up in your cardiovascular system. This plaque build-up greatly hinders proper blood flow throughout your body, effectively cutting off your body’s source of its essential nutrients. Plaque builds up in your cardiovascular system for several different reasons, but the American Heart Association considers five major risk factors as effective indicators that you may be developing cardiovascular disease. They are: sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, abnormal values for blood lipids, smoking, and obesity. Exercising lowers all of these risk factors. Here’s how:
Sedentary Lifestyle: Living a sedentary lifestyle allows your blood to pool in under-used limbs, lowers your red blood cells’ capacity to transport oxygen to your body, and results in muscle tissue loss and fat gain. Exercise forces increased blood flow through the body, increases your red blood cells’ capacity to carry oxygen, and forces lean muscle tissue growth (which raises your metabolism – helping you shed that excess fat). Check!
High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is often the result of a weak heart. Not a figurative “weak heart”, but an actual physically weak heart (though the one often contributes to the other). The heart is a muscle. Just like other muscles, the heart grows stronger the more you exercise it. A stronger heart forces blood vessels to dilate as blood flow increases, ultimately lowering your blood pressure. Additionally, exercise results in weight reduction, which also lowers blood pressure. Check!
Blood Lipids: Blood lipids are essentially “blood fats,” (better known as “cholesterol”) and contribute greatly to the build-up of plaque in your cardiovascular system. There are two types of cholesterol: “good cholesterol” (HDL) and “bad cholesterol” (LDL). This one is pretty simple: exercise lowers bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterol. Check!
Smoking: At this day and age, I hope I don’t need to expand upon why smoking is bad for your health. How does exercise help lower this risk factor though? Well…have you ever tried to smoke while exercising? Check!
Obesity: Obesity is a condition caused by attaining a high amount of excess body fat. Obviously, being obese is a stand-alone risk factor to developing cardiovascular disease, but it is also a significant contributor to the severity of the other risk factors listed here. Bottom line? A high amount of excess body fat is bad. Exercise raises your metabolism, requiring your body to use excess body fat as a fuel source. This lowers your amount of excess body fat. Check!
As you can see, exercise is extremely effective at improving your cardiovascular health. In fact, it is essential to achieving and maintaining optimal cardiovascular health. This is because, when it comes to achieving and maintaining optimal cardiovascular health, there are no other options. There are lots of medical options available to assist with the management of less-than-optimal cardiovascular health, but if you are someone who is less-than-enthused about living a less-than-optimal life, exercise is the only answer. So, if you have a heart, show some heart, and start exercising!