Physical activity helps to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke by lowering your blood pressure, increasing your ‘good’ cholesterol levels, helping you maintain a healthy weight and by keeping your heart healthy. It’s never too late to begin exercising, the key is to increase your level of activity at a steady rate over time.
Your heart is one big muscle and, like any muscle, it needs to be exercised to stay healthy. Keeping your heart fit and healthy makes it easier to pump blood around your body and makes you feel more energised as well. Exercise also helps you to stay at a healthy weight – and can help you look good too!
It is a good idea to get into a regular exercise habit. Many of us were fit and active when we were younger but work, families and lack of time over the years can mean that many of us are a long way from being fit today. Luckily, getting fit is something you can do at any age – and don’t panic, we’re not talking about running marathons (unless you want to…). Just adding some extra physical activity and exercise into your day-to-day routine can make all the difference.
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves cholesterol levels
- Lowers risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes
- Reduces narrowing of the arteries
- Reduces risk of irregular heartbeat
- Reduces angina (chest pains)
- Helps to manage weight
- Reduces body fat
- Helps prevent osteoporosis, colon and breast cancer
- Improves blood sugar levels
- Improves flexibility, balance and co-ordination
- Decreases stress and anxiety
- Helps relaxation and sleep
- Improves mental health, self-confidence and self esteem
DID YOU KNOW?
Exercising regularly can reduce your risk of dying from breast cancer by up to 50% and colon cancer by up to 60%.
This really depends on where you are starting from. If you are starting from zero, take your time and build on your exercise levels over a few weeks. Ideally, you want to exercise for 150 minutes in total, per week. You should be doing something that has you breathing faster (but not out of breath) and getting warm.
DID YOU KNOW?
150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by 30%.
Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving, whereas exercise is more structured and aims to improve your fitness levels.
|PHYSICAL ACTIVITY – TRY TO BE AS PHYSICALLY ACTIVE AS YOU CAN THROUGHOUT THE DAY – EXAMPLES OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY||EXERCISE – AIM TO EXERCISE FOR A TOTAL OF 150 MINUTES PER WEEK – EXAMPLES OF EXERCISE|
|Walking slowly||Brisk walking|
|Climbing stairs instead of taking the lift||Cycling|
|Playing with the kids||Tennis/Badminton|
|Walking the dog||Aerobics|
|Washing the car (by hand!)||Swimming|
Apart from exercising, it is good to get some physical activity into your day-to-day routine. Simple steps like taking the stairs instead of a lift or parking away from your destination and walking the last distance will help you be more active in general.
- Take your time. If you haven’t exercised in years, then don’t expect to be managing the full 150 minutes per week straightaway. Start with 10 minutes and gradually increase over a few weeks or months.
- If it has been a long time since you have exercised or if you have been unwell, speak to your GP before you start to exercise.
- Set goals. This will keep you focused on reaching your target. Write out how much exercise you would like to do in one month, three months and six months and work towards your goals – but be realistic.
- Add physical activity to your daily routine: take the stairs, get off the bus a stop earlier, walk to the shop and park further away from the door of the supermarket. Every little bit of activity helps!
- Join a class. An exercise class is a great way to get fit and keep you motivated. Having other people doing the same exercise can be encouraging and there is a variety to choose from such as aerobics or dance classes.
- Find something you enjoy – there are so many ways to be active, choose one that interests you.
- Ask family and friends for support. Some people like to exercise alone but others do better with some company and encouragement. Join a local walking club or look for other local activities.
- And finally, plan ahead. Lack of time or organisation stops many people from exercising as much as they would like to. Simple things like making a note in your diary as a reminder to exercise or keeping a pair of runners in your car can make it that bit easier to stay on track.
If you experience any new pain during exercise then stop and speak to your GP.
Warming up before exercise helps your body to prepare and means you are less likely to have an injury. Start your exercise slowly and build up your pace over 5-10 minutes – for example, walking slowly for a few minutes before increasing your pace to a brisk walk.
Cooling down after exercise is very good for your body. This is also a good time to do some simple stretches to improve your flexibility.
‘I already do 30 minutes of brisk walking every day. Is that enough?’
To keep your heart healthy, you need to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week. However if you are already doing this, you should aim to add an extra 10 minutes every few weeks until you are exercising for a total of 300 minutes per week for maximum health benefits.
If being more active looks like too much work, try some of the tips below:
- Exercise within your own limits. Having company can help to motivate you but always go at your own pace.
- Drink plenty of water. If you are even a little dehydrated, exercising can be more difficult. Try to drink a glass or two of water about 30 minutes before you exercise.
- Avoid eating a heavy meal 1-2 hours before you exercise – being too full can slow you down and make you feel uncomfortable.
- Wear comfortable clothes and supportive footwear.
- Keep a record of the exercise you do – seeing how much you have already achieved can help you to stay focused.