HEART HEALTH

The benefits of
cardiovascular
exercise

Why we feel so good
after a workout and
why it is good for us

The American College of Cardiology recommends 30 minutes of exercise per day or 150 minutes of activity per week to stay healthy. We all understand that exercise burns calories, helps blood flow, and promotes muscle growth. Regular daily activity, over time, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels and along with a heart-healthy diet, is a factor in reaching or maintaining a healthy weight. But how intense does the exercise need to be for it to be beneficial? And then what happens to our body during cardiovascular activity?

Moderately intense exercise

Dr. Kevin Woods is a board-certified cardiologist with Capital Cardiology Associates. Dr. Woods is particularly interested in preventative cardiology and cardiovascular imaging. In his free time, Dr. Woods enjoys mountain biking, exercising, and running. He categorizes walking, ballroom dancing, moderate biking, yoga, and swimming as examples of moderately intense exercise. “Or, you could do more vigorous activity for a total of 75 minutes during the week, which includes jogging, swimming laps in a pool, or singles tennis,” he added. A brisk 30-minute walk every day is a great place to start exercising. It helps increase blood flow, boosts your endurance, and can reduce your risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Our hearts beat about 10,000 times a day, making it one of the most active organs in the body. The goal of cardio exercise is to increase our heart rate from 40 to 80 percent of our maximum heart rate. “Essentially, you’re trying to increase your blood flow to your muscles. Increasing oxygen delivery and your body does that in a variety of ways. Certainly, your heart rate increases. The strength of the heart contraction increases. Your blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen exchange all build trying to meet the energy needs of the muscles when you’re exercising,” Dr. Woods added. This is how cardio burns fat by causing us to breath hard and sweat. Regular cardio exercise can help people with normal blood pressure maintain healthy blood pressure levels, allowing our heart to pump more efficiently and protecting our blood vessels.

How to measure intensity

The good news is: you don’t need to spend a lot of money to reap the benefits of a great workout. If you start sweating after 10 minutes or can talk but can’t sing, those are signs of moderate exercise. For example, you should expect to return from your lunch break walk breathing a little faster, maybe wiping an occasional drop of sweat from your brow. Sweating and breathing hard are clues that your run around the neighborhood was vigorous exercise. One thing you should not experience is pain. Pain indicates that you are pushing yourself too hard. As soon as you feel pain, listen to your body, and stop all activity. Talk with a fitness expert or your doctor about your level of exertion.

Exercise makes you feel good

Whether you want to improve your blood flow, lose weight, or take a break outside, there is one additional benefit to exercise: how it makes you feel. Exercise is mother nature’s painkiller because it releases neurochemicals called endorphins. These are natural hormones associated with feelings of euphoria and well-being that are delivered during aerobic exercise like running but also while swimming, cycling, or rowing. When your heart is pumping blood to all organs and parts of your body, endorphins are released to combat stress. This is why you “feel good” after a long run or bike ride. Your body is helping your muscles recover and rebuild.

An exercise plan or regime creates accountability. When you workout, regularly, you are less likely to make poor lifestyle choices. Have you ever met at healthy smoker? Exercise has been proven to people to quit smoking. Researchers found that a 15-minute brisk walk not only reduced cigarette cravings and withdrawal symptoms; it also can increase the time between cigarettes smoked. Most people would rather choose a smaller slice of dessert when they know the amount of effort needed to “work it off.” And, once you start to see changes in your body or feel stronger, you want to continue to reach your fitness goals!

It’s interesting how just 30 minutes of activity a day can improve your mood, lower your risk of heart disease, give you more energy, and help you sleep better. While we have discussed the physical and psychological effects of exercise in your health, Dr. Woods acknowledges the one plus that resonates with most patients: empowering your role in your health. “People don’t want to take pills, and if I tell them, there’s something that they can do to reduce the possibility that they will need to be on medications as well as a motivator. In addition to reducing the risk of the things we talked about before, that’s empowering to patients; they like to know that what they do matters. It can be a social activity for people as well, which is incredibly important for your lifestyle health too.”

Written by Michael Arce, Marketing Coordinator
Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.