What type of exercise is best to avoid heart disease?
The only exercise which is of benefit to the heart and vascular system is a continuous, rhythmic, endurance aerobic type of physical activity.
This includes jogging, cycling, hiking, walking, swimming, cross-country skiing, and other activities which use the long muscles of the legs and trunk in a continually sustained and rhythmic fashion. This exercise must be repeated every two and one-half days; after that time, the individual begins to decondition — you should exercise at least three days a week.
The benefits of aerobic exercise and fitness extend beyond those related to your job. Activities that lead to improved aerobic fitness also:
- Reduce the risk of heart disease
- Improve circulation and respiration
- Reduce the problems of overweight
- Strengthen bones, ligaments and tendons
- Reduce tension and psychological stress
- Minimize fatigue
- Enhance self-concept and body image
How will jogging or swimming help you achieve all of the above for your body or for that matter make you more productive at your job? The answer is found in the training effect.
The controlled stress of regular aerobic exercise stimulates heart, lung and muscle activity, which produces beneficial changes in the body called the training effect. Aerobic exercise that promotes a sustained increase in heart rate, respiration, and muscle metabolism helps the body adapt to the added demands imposed by this kind of exercise,
Adaptions include improved heart and lung function, improved muscular endurance. Respiratory muscles become more efficient too. Fit individuals take in more air per breath, breathe deeper, and ventilate a greater proportion of their lungs, getting more oxygen into the blood. Oxygen transport in the blood is improved by an increase in hemoglobin and total blood volume.
The body learns to better distribute the blood to working muscles. This redistribution, accompanied by increased heart output, leads to an improved supply of oxygen to the working muscles. Aerobic exercise may increase the number of capillaries serving individual muscle fibers.
Muscles undergo specific adjustments that enhance their ability to take in and use oxygen to burn the food you eat, producing the energy for continued muscular contractions.
Aerobic training influences other organs and systems; the nervous system learns to use muscles efficiently; the endocrine system learns to support your efforts with the appropriate hormones. Bones, ligaments and tendons get tougher.
The physique and body composition can be altered. Body fat diminishes, muscle tone up and appearance improves. Along with improved appearance and the feeling of well-being go some subtle psychological changes: improved self-concept and body image, reduced anxiety, improved vitality, increased self-confidence, and joy of living.
There is evidence that the effects of aging may be temporarily offset with a vigorous aerobic fitness program, so that increased capacity and adaptability associated with aerobic fitness can add life to your years, not just years to your life. It is important to recognize that if coronary heart disease is already established, exercise will not change the atherosclerotic plaques (hard deposits) present in the arteries.
Exercise will help the individual and his cardiovascular system to adapt better to the process. It does this by establishing new collateral vessels; by decreasing the heart rate so that the coronary arteries have a better chance to fill between heart beats; by improving the strength and contractility of the heart muscle itself, and by improving the overall oxygen transport system. All of these are beneficial effects of exercise in an individual who already has established coronary heart disease.
Exercise can prevent coronary heart disease from becoming more severe and gives you a better chance of survival if a heart attack occurs.
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