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If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, or if you are physically inactive, you may be increasing your risk of coronary heart disease. Physical inactivity is just one of many risk factors involved. These factors include: diabetes mellitus, hypertension, obesity, family history, cigarette smoking, high cholesterol, age, and gender.

The good news is that you can significantly lower several of these risks through regular exercise. Exercise has many other benefits, too, as you will see. And, besides, it's fun!

How does exercise lower the risk of heart disease?

  1. Regular exercise conditions or strengthens your heart and lungs. and makes them work more efficiently
  2. When you exercise regularly, you burn calories. This reduces the likelihood of obesity - one of the risks for heart disease.
  3. Regular exercise affects diabetes. - another risk factor for heart disease.
  4. If you engage in a regular, sustained exercise program you will prevent or delay the onset of high blood pressure. (hypertension), and may lower existing hypertension
  5. Regular exercise lowers undesirable cholesterol levels and raises desirable cholesterol levesl.
  6. When you exercise regularly, you can lower the heart's demand for oxygen. This is especially important for people who already have heart disease.

What are some of the other benefits of exercise?
Exercise lowers the risk of colon cancer. It also builds and straightens bones, joints and muscles.

Regular exercise or physical activity enhances your psychological well-being. Exercise reduces depression and anxiety, and leads to more productivity at work.

When you engage in regular physical activity you cope better with stress; you relax and feel less tense; and you have more energy.

Are There Any Risks to Exercise?
If done properly and sensibly, exercise should be a safe and pleasant experience. The American Heart Association advises you to discontinue your exercise program until you have consulted with your physician, if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Discomfort in your upper body, chest, arm, neck or jaw
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath during exercise,
  • Discomfort in bones and joints during or after. exercise
  • Inability to finish the exercise

If you have a diagnosed cardiac condition, your doctor may suggest that you initially pursue a monitored exercise program.

Should I consult my doctor before beginning an exercise program?
According to a recent report by the Surgeon General, you must consult your physician before beginning a new vigorous physical activity program if you are a man over the age of 40 or a woman over the age of 50.

If you are a younger person, you should consult your physician if you have any of the risk factors discussed at the beginning of this topic.

Other reasons to consult a physician before commencing an exercise program include: recent chest pain (within the past month), a tendency to lose consciousness or fall over due to dizziness, joint or bone problems, or a tendency to become breathless easily.

Which exercises should I do?
There are many physical activities, sports, and exercises from which you may choose. Pick activities you enjoy and try to vary them You increase the likelihood of staying with your exercise program if you engage in activities you like to do.

For vigorous, heart and lung conditioning, you may select one of the following activities:

  • Brisk, sustained walking
  • aerobic dancing or water aerobics
  • cycling (stationary or bicycling)
  • cross-country skiing
  • hiking
  • skating (ice or ground)
  • jogging
  • jumping rope
  • rowing
  • stair climbing,
  • swimming
  • squash
  • tennis
  • basketball

Less vigorous activities include the following:

  • gardening
  • volleyball
  • walking

What does aerobic exercise mean?
Aerobic or endurance training consists of dynamic exercise, which involves high-repetition movements against low resistance. Examples include the vigorous activities listed above.

Aerobic exercises involve rhythmic contraction and relaxation of working muscles. This results in increased blood flow to active muscles during relaxation and increased blood flow to the heart during muscle contraction. Regular aerobic exercise will allow you to eventually exercise for a longer duration and/or at a higher work rate.

Even low-intensity, less vigorous exercise can have some long-term health benefits, if performed daily. These activities will also help lower your risk of heart disease.

Do I need special equipment or clothing to exercise?
As you can see from the suggested lists of sports and exercises, many physical activities do not require special equipment or clothing.

You should dress appropriately for the temperature and weather. Choose loose-fitting, comfortable clothes and shoes. Do not use rubberized, nonporous material.

What is the best way to exercise?
A safe , effective exercise program includes three periods: warm up, training, and cool down.

  1. Warm Up - (5 to 10 minutes). Begin exercise slowly and gradually build up speed.
  2. Training (30 to 60 minutes) to improve the condition and fitness of your heart and lungs, your goal should be to exercise within your target heart rate zone. This range lies between 50 and 75 per cent of your maximum heart rate.

    To calculate your target heart rate zone, first calculate your maximum heart rate. Do this subtracting your age from 220. Thus, a 40 year old person would have a maximum heart rate of 180 beats per minute. To exercise at training level, he must achieve a heart rate of between 90 (50% of maximum) and 135 (75% of maximum) beats per minute.

    To determine your actual heart rate, stop exercising. Place your first two fingers over a pulse point and count your pulse for 10 seconds. Multiply that number by six, to yield the number of heart beats per minute. Pulse points are found in the blood vessels on your neck and inside your wrist.

    If you haven't exercised regularly in a while, start out at the lower end of the range and work your way up gradually.

    For people with hypertension, please note: The American Heart Association reminds us that a few high blood pressure medicines lower the maximum heart rate and thus the target zone rate. Please consult your physician if you are taking medicine for your hypertension.

  3. Cool Down (5 to 10 minutes). Gradually, slow down the pace of your exercise.

Finish up with some stretches!

It's a good idea to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercise.

How long should I exercise?
The Centers for Disease Control, The American Heart Association and The American College of Sports Medicine, all recommend that you exercise within your target heart rate zone for at least 30 minutes each session.

Although it is most desirable to maintain your training intensity for at least 30 consecutive minutes, similar results and benefits have been found among those who exercise in three ten minute segments each day.

How frequently should I exercise?
Try to exercise or engage in physical activity every day. If you cannot fit daily exercise into your schedule, strive for a minimum of three days per week. Exercise at least four days every week if you are also trying to lose weight.

Start out slowly and gradually build up your exercise time and frequency. Set yourself up for success!

When should I exercise?
Remember to exercise only when feeling well. Do not exercise vigorously soon after eating. Eating increases the blood flow requirements of the intestinal tract. Physical activity increases a competing demand for blood to the muscles. Wait a half-hour after eating, before exercising.

Slow your pace in very warm weather - about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If temperature is usually 80 degrees Fahrenheit or more during the day, exercise in the early morning or the evening.

Are there any other way to increase my physical activity?
Yes, you can make physical activity a regular part of your daily life.

  1. Park farther from your destination and walk the extra distance;
  2. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or get off one floor before your destination and walk the remaining flight;
  3. Walk, don't drive to your errands;
  4. Do chores at a brisk pace;
  5. Do your own gardening, marketing, carrying.

Exercise is a fun way to reap many health benefits. Through regular exercise you can lower or eliminate many of the risks for coronary artery and other cardiovascular diseases. It's never too late to start!

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