The first thing I want to talk about here is the difference between physical activity and exercise. Whilst both are important, they are sometimes confused for the same thing when this is not always the case. The World Health Organisation (WHO) define physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles which requires energy expenditure. Exercise is a subcategory of physical activity which is planned, structured, repetitive and purposeful in the that it aims to improve one or more components of physical fitness. So, simply put, physical activity can include gardening, house chores and walking instead of driving whereas exercise would be doing a healthy hearts academy home workout or a Zumba session.
It is recommended that we complete 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week which is spread out throughout the week. Now, this is the minimum recommendation so if you complete more than this you will receive greater benefits. Being active and exercising regularly makes your heart stronger meaning that there is less pressure on your arteries and so lowers your blood pressure. This significantly lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease. It helps you lose weight which also lowers your blood pressure. It raises levels of HDL, good cholesterol, which removes the bad cholesterol meaning it is less likely to block your arteries and cause a heart attack. PA helps you use up the extra glucose (sugar) in your blood which lowers blood glucose levels reducing the risk of hyperglycaemia. So, just by doing regular exercise you can reduce your blood pressure, weight, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, all of which are risk factors of cardiovascular disease which I spoke about in the risk factors section.
Now I understand that if you have recently had a heart event or have been diagnosed with a heart condition this can be an uncertain time for you. Maybe the thought of making your heart work is scary and makes you feel nervous. If you have been through cardiac rehabilitation you will have been taught how to exercise safely and should be aware of your heart rate training zone and the RPE scale. I have created a Healthy Hearts RPE scale which you can print off and have with you when you exercise. It might be an idea to write your heart rate training zone at the top of your RPE scale as something to refer too. For anyone who hasn’t been through cardiac rehabilitation it is important to refer to the exercising safely video before starting any exercise.
As well as doing your 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. Small changes on a daily basis can also help. Taking the stairs instead of a lift, walking up the escalator, walking instead of driving, investing in a standing desk and parking further away from the shop are all things you can be doing on a daily basis to help increase your activity each day. If you walk up 10 steps each day instead of taking the lift this equates to walking up 70 steps each week and 3640 steps a year all from making one small change in your daily routine.
Introducing exercise into your weekly routine can be challenging, especially if you have never really done it before and even more so if you don’t like it. But now is the perfect time to start. It is important to find something that you can enjoy doing. If you don’t like going to the gym, you don’t need to go to the gym. I have designed plenty of home workouts you can do from the comfort of your own home and there lots of different exercises you can do instead.
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