Medically Reviewed by Ryan C. Garbalosa, DO
Failure to exercise is cited as one of the primary contributors to death from heart disease. The association between physical activity and heart disease was noted more than 60 years ago, when a researcher compared heart disease in conductors on double decker busses. Those who climbed the stairs to collect tickets reported less heart disease than those who did not. As the world advances, we walk less, many jobs are more desk bound or automated and games do not require us to leave the couch.
“Even if you have other risk factors — such as, a family history of heart disease, obesity, smoking or diabetes — regular exercise or physical activity can help reduce your overall cardiac risk,” says McLeod Cardiologist Dr. Ryan Garbalosa. “Staying active helps control many things such as blood pressure, glucose levels, and the health of your blood vessels.’”
WHO SHOULD EXERCISE
Basically, the answer is easy – almost everyone should engage in physical activity that’s appropriate for your capacity. Even if you don’t have cardiovascular disease risk factors, staying active can help you prevent premature death compared to people who are sedentary.
Not to underestimate the problem of obesity, one study indicated that for middle age and elderly people exercise benefits may outweigh the impact of being overweight. The study said that obese people with no or low levels of physical exercise are a third more likely to develop heart disease.
Physical activity is good for youth. Unfortunately, a national survey indicated that as much as 30% of children and youth had no light to moderate exercise in session of 10 minutes or more a week.
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?
Moderate exercise, such as brisk walking for 30 minutes a day is helpful and burns 600 to 1,200 calories a week. Other exercise alternatives include cycling, swimming and yard work.
If you can’t find that 30-minutes a day to exercise, try taking the stairs rather than the elevator or walking a short distance rather than driving a few blocks to your next destination.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
If you are over age 45 and have two or more of the risk factors – family history of heart disease, smoking, obesity, high cholesterol or blood pressure and a sedentary lifestyle – consult a cardiologist before starting exercise.
Check out these tips on getting active from the American Heart Association.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Heart Association, Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, Journal of the American Medical Association, American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, World Heart Federation