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Exercise & Your Heart

Exercise and your heart

Regular exercise helps keep you generally fit and healthy. Regular exercise is essential for good health including a healthy heart.

The human body was designed to have an active life. However these days we all spend most of our time sitting down at our desks, sitting I our cars, and watching TV.

Weight control

Exercise helps "burn off" excess fat. Regular exercise together with a sensible diet is helpful in maintaining a healthy body weight.


As we get older, our bones lose calcium and become weaker. This is called osteoporosis. This is more common in women, especially after the menopause. Taking regular exercise slows down the loss of calcium and keeps the bones stronger for longer.

Muscle strength

Exercise keeps the muscles strong and helps joints remain flexible and supple. It is particularly good for older people.


Exercise is also a good way to beat stress and helps many people cope with anxiety and depression, and sleep better.

Exercise especially helps your heart

Exercise is good for the heart muscle and encourages good circulation to the heart. It has been known for a long time that those who take regular physical activity either as part of their work (e.g. postmen) or in their leisure time, are less likely to have a heart attack then those who don't. Those who do not exercise regularly are more than twice as likely to have a hear attack than those who do.

Taking regular, adequate exercise helps to protect you from developing coronary heart disease in several ways:

Exercise builds up the strength of your heart so it can do its normal job of pumping blood around the body using less effort. It also gives your heart more "reserve capacity" so it better able to cope when you ask it to pump harder!

Exercise keeps the blood healthy by increasing levels of "HDL" the "good" cholesterol which helps clear cholesterol from the blood. Exercise also makes the blood less likely to clot.

Exercise will help ensure that your blood pressure remains lower or help lower if it is high.

Exercise also helps to keep your weight in check.


What type of exercise is good for your heart?

Any exercise is better than none! The type of exercise that is best for your heart is the kind that requires stamina. For example, walking, swimming, running or cycling, rather than the muscle building exercise such as weight lifting. Any exercise that makes you slightly breathless and makes your heart beat faster is beneficial to your heart.

How much exercise and how often?

For maximum health benefits, you should aim for 20-30 minutes of fairly vigorous exercise at least 2-3 times each week. If you currently take no exercise at all you should aim for 20-30 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise once a week. This should then be built up gradually. If you have a particular medical condition that concerns you about exercising, discuss this with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Start gradually!

If you have not taken any exercise for a long time start by finding more energetic ways of carrying out your everyday activities- walk to work, use the stairs or cycle to the shops. Build up your exercise gradually so that you get out of breath but not to the point of sprains or muscle strain!

Set realistic goals!

If you have not exercised for a while, don't expect to be able to run a marathon straight away!


If you are not very fit, the first few attempts can be a struggle. Don't get disheartened - exercise will become easier with time, and many people will find it becomes an enjoyable part of their life!

Choose an exercise that you enjoy!

That way you'll be more likely to stick with it.