Cardiovascular disease is a serious health threat. Nearly 5 million Americans suffer from it and each gender is equally at risk. Cardiovascular disease has killed more women then men every year since 1984 and is the #1 cause of death for women age 35 and older.
One of the safest and most effective ways to reduce your risk and improve your cardiovascular fitness is through aerobic exercise. Unfortunately, 70% of American women don't exercise regularly and inactivity nearly doubles a person's risk for heart disease, ranking it among the leading risk factors. The American Heart Association reports that regular physical activity is as important for heart health as the other three major lifestyle factors: quitting smoking, lowering blood cholesterol, and controlling blood pressure.
Regular aerobic activity (also called endurance exercise) is best. Studies have shown that as little as 30 minutes a day of moderately vigorous aerobic activity, such as walking, cycling, or swimming significantly reduces a person's risk of heart disease. Best of all, exercise need not be extremely vigorous to be beneficial to your health.
Regular aerobic physical activity reduces the risk of developing or dying from Cardiovascular disease. Aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular health and helps control several disorders such as high blood pressure and cholesterol that increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Activities such as walking, cycling, and swimming “stress” the muscles, bones, and joints (the physiological systems that produces movement), the heart, blood vessels and lungs, and the other systems responsible for oxygen delivery and energy production. These systems respond to the stress of exercise by becoming stronger and healthier.
With aerobic exercise, individuals with high blood pressure often see some reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Blood sugar regulation improves, thus decreasing risk for Type II Diabetes or improving blood sugar control for people already diagnosed with diabetes. Exercise helps raise healthy HDL cholesterol, and helps lower blood triglycerides.
Some individuals, mostly women but some men too, spend a great deal of time and energy worrying about their physical shape and size. Chronic body dissatisfaction can be exhausting and demoralizing. It can also escalate into eating disorders and depression. If you need to lose weight, focus on improving your lifestyle rather than attaining a specific weight goal. A healthy lifestyle includes regular exercise which burns calories and helps reduce excess body fat, especially when combined with a nutritious, low fat diet. For example, an hour of brisk walking burns about 350 calories. Once your metabolic rate increases, you will continue to burn calories even after you've finished exercising. Regular exercise helps reduce the amount of fat stored inside the abdomen area. Excess fat is this location increases the risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Many studies support the connection between regular physical activity and psychosocial well being. Exercise helps prevent and treat depression, improve perceptions of self efficiency and may even improve memory and problem-solving ability. Exercise helps relieve stress and improves quality of life.
Many of the health problems that become more common with age, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, insomnia, and diabetes, respond favorably to exercise. It has been said that exercise will certainly add life to your years.
To make your workouts as low-risk as possible, use the following guidelines:
Below is a sample Exercise Log for self-monitoring your program.
My Target Heart Rate Range is:________
|Date||Type of Exercise||Total Minutes||Heart Rate||Comments|
This Exercise page was contributed by Kathleen B.Williamson, MS, RN, C, Coordinator of Cardiopulmonary Fitness and Rehabilitation Services at Capital Health System in Trenton, NJ.
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