How exercise helps you avoid a broken heart

Joseph Libonati, PhD, associate professor of nursing at Penn Nursing answer’s questions about how exercise betters your heart health. Dr. Libonati is a cardiac physiology expert who focuses on heart health and hypertension.

Exactly how does exercise benefit the heart?

One way benefits the heart is by decreasing its workload. Exercise improves the ratio between the heart’s demand for oxygen and its supply through the coronary arteries. With exercise, the heart gets stronger because it gets bigger and is able to pump more efficiently.

Exercise allows your heart to push out a greater volume of blood with every beat and it does so at a lower heart rate. It also improves the blood flow to the heart by improving the heart’s ability to have its coronary blood vessels dilate. These changes in parallel improve both the supply and demand of the heart.

How does exercise lower high blood pressure?

Exercise helps lower high blood pressure by improving the ability of your blood vessels to dilate, making the pressure on those vessels less. Exercise also improves your blood sugar levels and makes you leaner; this allows your heart to pump blood at lower pressures, thereby making your heart work less.

What exercise is best for the heart?

Using large muscle mass repetitively is best for heart health. Think about the acronym FIT:

F – Frequency
I – Intensity
T - Time

That’s the general recipe for exercise toward a healthy . For frequency: You should exercise five days a week. Find something you like so you are more likely to stick with it. For intensity: You should do the talk test. If you can hold a normal conversation with little breathing trouble while exercising, this is the right intensity. For time: You should exercise 30 to 60 minutes per day, and it doesn’t have to be all at once. The important factor is that you do as much physical activity as you can throughout the day.

Why is exercise important as we age?

Exercise is important to maintaining healthy bones and muscles. As we age, we start to have smaller muscles and weaker bones. Activities that maintain muscles and bone mass help people age with a greater ability to function.

Resistance training or weight training is a good way to maintain bone mass, so making this type of exercise part of your daily routine is important as into your 40s and beyond. Also, maintaining muscle mass helps the body’s metabolism and can reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

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Provided by University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
Citation: How exercise helps you avoid a broken heart (2012, January 16) retrieved 18 October 2019 from
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Jan 16, 2012
While the 30 to 60 minutes doesn't have to be all at once and, indeed, is probably more productive if done in short periods, I personally want to get it over with so I don't have to think about it again that day. I'm not that old yet but already I have enough aches and pains to make exercise a repulsive activity. I wish that heart attacks had a guarantee of lethality so I could just live peacefully and die early but that would be too much to ask. Instead I am required to endure tendinitis and hypothermia for the privilege of needing to change cloths more often, replace shoes more often and be laughed at by teenagers in cars.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that exercise sucks. At least death only needs to be endured once.

Jan 17, 2012
@Sean W.
I'm sorry to hear of your difficulties with exercise. You sound like someone who is terribly upset and angry at your situation. Perhaps you are severely depressed about it too, just going by the thoughts of death you are expressing.

There are some things you could look into:
1. You might be suffering from some reaction to food. Have blood tests done to look at anti-body reactions to different foods. I've had reactions to tomatoes that resulted in agonizing knee pain. Until that was relieved, exercise was almost out of the question.
2.Swimming or cycling might be an alternative to walking etc.
3.Your physical appearance can elicit all kinds of negative responses from people. Just remember that people don't care what you feel like inside, they are far too busy with their own struggles in life to care about you. SO just ignore it. It's mostly your OWN interpretation of what you think is going on in their minds that is most upsetting. I enjoy my thin legs just fine.

Jan 17, 2012
@Sean W.
I'm sorry to hear of your difficulties with exercise. You sound like someone who is terribly upset and angry at your situation. Perhaps you are severely depressed about it too, just going by the thoughts of death you are expressing.

Kevin, (I believe you are THAT 'kevin') you take a HELL of a lot of heat for many of the 'faith' based comments you make on this website; YET you have the humanity and empathy to care about a stranger. I must encourage your empathy toward this person. They DO seem a bit morose and it could be depression or a problem for which they cannot find a solution, of which, we know nothing.
I agree with you Kevin, I wish our new friend would exercise for the overall good it does one. Why? Whatever you have lost, whatever someone has done to you and the pain it has brought, no matter how many people laugh at you, as long as you have your health, you CAN get it ALL back and get some sweet PAY BACK!!!
TENNIS ELBOW beats cancer/death!

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