Steady Exercise and Heart Health

  • February 6, 2019
Steady Exercise and Heart Health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The stark reality is that half of all Americans—both young and old—have at least one of the top three risk factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoker) for heart disease. Since February is Heart Health Month, it’s a great time to spread heart health awareness and prevention tips to help reduce the risk for so many people.

A key element of heart disease prevention is exercise. Obesity is a major contributor to heart disease, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 1 in 3 adults struggle with obesity, as well as nearly 1 in 6 children. Obesity is also connected to diabetes and lack of physical activity, both of which also contribute to the risk of heart disease. Whether or not you’ve been told that you should be concerned about heart disease by a doctor, introducing more exercise into your life is one of the best all-natural methods of heart disease prevention.

Exercise More For Heart Disease Prevention

When it comes to staying in shape, just a few days of exercise each week can make a huge difference. However, when it comes to keeping a healthy heart as you advance in age, research suggests that you might need a slightly more rigorous workout routine. In fact, experts suggest that one of your best defenses against heart disease is to find ways of exercising on a near-daily basis.

For Americans over the age of 65 in particular, the heart enjoys the greatest benefit after four to five days of exercise a week.  When it comes to what researchers call ‘heart muscle flexibility,’ anything less just isn’t going to cut it. Those who succeed in making exercise and fitness a part of their day-to-day lives will enjoy the greatest heart health benefits.

Rigorous Exercise Can Turn Back Your (Heart Disease) Clock

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, aimed to determine the extent to which regular exercise could serve to counteract muscle-stiffening that occurs in the heart with age. When heart muscles stiffen and lose flexibility with age, your risk factors for heart disease and heart attack, including high blood pressure and diabetes, increase. Researchers set out to find whether or not exercise could serve as an effective method of heart disease prevention.

The results suggested that the heart craves activity. Seniors who exercise at least four or five times a week had nearly the same level of heart flexibility as young adults. Surprisingly, research found that heart muscle stiffening only improved after this four to five-day commitment since participants who exercised two to three times a week showed the same muscle stiffness as those who were entirely sedentary.

Some Exercise Is Better Than None

Although the study found that those who exercised just a few times a week didn’t have a significant reduction in their heart disease risk, there is a health benefit to exercising at least several times a week. Certainly, even a small window of exercise each week can lower your risk of obesity, heart attack, and stroke. However, as this study shows, it takes a little more to counteract the effects of aging on your heart muscle flexibility.

The Surgeon General’s advisory calls for every older adult to exercise at least 30 minutes a day for the majority of the week. This can be moderate exercise. You will see benefits from a low-impact routine provided that you do it frequently enough.  

It also bears noting that you don’t have to, nor should you, exercise every single day.  Researchers found that those who exercised six to seven days a week did not see significantly greater heart flexibility than their four to five-day counterparts.  Allow yourself one or two days of recovery time. This helps to prevent injury or burnout.

Perhaps most importantly, find something that you truly enjoy. When you love your exercise routine and the way it makes you feel, you’ll find it a lot easier to commit your time and energy.  Your heart will thank you for it!

Stay Safe While Exercising

Any time you start a new routine, it’s good to have a safety net in case of an emergency. With Medical Guardian’s selection of mobile medical alert devices, you’ll be protected at home, at the gym, or on long walks around your neighborhood. There’s no reason why you can’t combat heart disease and stay safe at the same time!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hilary Young is a health and wellness expert that specializes in both senior life and caregiving. She'd love to hear more about your thoughts on aging, healthy living, and caregiving, and you can find her on Twitter at @hyoungcreative to start the conversation.


KEYWORDS: heart disease, heart health awareness, heart disease prevention, fitness