Exercise, yes or no? Your heart says yes!

Happy Heart Exercise

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

I was asked by a worried potential exerciser Is exercise really healthy, if you suffer from a cardiovascular disease?. The answer is Yes!
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your heart, because it helps in preventing cardiovascular disease; it lowers your risk of atherosclerosis, a primary cause of heart disease and stroke.

You can exercise to either prevent cardiovascular disease – a smart move – or if you already suffer from a cardiovascular disease, you can use exercise as medicine to get better! Cardiovascular disease covers many a diagnosis, therefore you need a check-up and an individual exercise recommendation from your doctor, before embarking on a formalized training program.

Proceed with caution. First of all increase your daily ‘everyday living’ PAL, Physical Activity Level, and do it from today; walk and stand more and take the stairs every time.
Then include short duration exercise sessions, walking and cycling, to get an easy start and keep the motivation for staying with your program.

Exercise recommendations
If your are very inactive, start with 5-10 minutes.
If you are used to walking, start with 10-20 minutes.
Increase duration over time to 30-60 minutes; it is healthy and burns fat.

You should break a sweat and your breathing should be somewhat heavy; it is healthy.

Gradually you should exert yourself more for short periods of time (the interval structure below is an example from Dr. Bente Klarlund Pedersen):

Exercise program

  • Warm-up for 10 minutes.
  • 10 min. somewhat hard exercise followed by 5 min. easy exercise. And again:
  • 10 min. somewhat hard exercise followed by 5 min. easy exercise.
  • Cooldown, easy exercise for 5 minutes (last easy interval). Stretching as needed.

If this feels easy, repeat the sequence, first one, then two times for every exercise session: 3-4 series of 10:5 minutes (work:active rest).
Do not increase your exercise volume too much all at once. Increase either the number of sessions per week or the number of series per session.
Listen to your body; it should feel good and doable.

Exercise plan

 times 20 minutes a week is the minimum for health benefits. If you want to feel better and get into shape the recommendation is a

minimum 30 minutes of physcial activity every day (5-7 days) for adults and 60 minutes for children.

Initially the exercise should feel fairly easy, byt as soon as you are into the exercise habit and feel comfortable, it is recommended, that you exert yourself a little (to a lot) more – for your heart’s sake.

Note: Resistance training is also healthy for your heart and metabolism; when you do resistance training, the energy expenditure is increased both during exercise and during rest.
2 times ½ hour resistance training a week is highly recommended.
Ask for a program at your local fitness centre. Example:

Warm up for 10 minutes and then train your legs, upper body, low back and abs.
5-8 exercises is plenty for starters.
Do each exercise movement 8-12 times, repetitions, have a rest-pause, then maybe another 10, and a pause, and another 10: 1-3 series of 10 repetitions.

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