Regular exercise has many health benefits, including reducing your risk of dying from heart disease. In fact, physical activity can play as big a role in lowering your risk as quitting smoking, improving your cholesterol, or lowering high blood pressure. Not only that, but it can help reduce those other risk factors too! The benefits of regular exercise are summarized below.
- Strengthens your heart muscle, making it a more efficient pump
- Increases your blood volume and the capacity of your blood to carry oxygen
- Reduces the stickiness of platelets in your blood, thus reducing risk of blood clots and artery blockages
- Increases muscle strength and endurance, and improves your muscles’ ability to use oxygen from the blood for energy
- Maintains bone, ligament, and tendon strength, and helps prevent or slow osteoporosis (loss of bone density)
- Improves your lipid profile by helping to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol
- Helps prevent high blood pressure, and helps lower blood pressure in people already diagnosed with high blood pressure
- Burns calories and builds muscle mass, helping you achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- Reduces the risk of developing diabetes
Social and emotional benefits
- Increases confidence and self-esteem
- Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety
- Improves quality of life
- Releases serotonin, a “feel-good” hormone manufactured in your brain
To make sure you’re exercising safely and can maintain your exercise program over the long term, take some time up front to plan this aspect of your treatment. This means doing the following:
- Consult with healthcare providers. You should never just plunge into a new fitness routine. Meet with your healthcare providers first. Because they know your medical history, they can help you understand your limitations and set realistic expectations and goals. You can also get involved in a cardiac rehab program where trained professionals can guide you step by step as you’re getting started.
- Consider your interests. You’re more likely to keep up a new habit if it reflects who you are and what you like to do. Think of ways that you can add variety and challenge to your routine.
- Find the right gear. You don’t necessarily need to have a whole new wardrobe or buy a lot of expensive exercise equipment. But you do need to wear comfortable clothing and footwear.
- Participate in cardiac rehab or find an exercise companion. Having someone to exercise with can help you stay on a regular schedule and will make fitness more fun for you.
- Define a program. The more specific you are in defining your exercise program, the easier it will be for you to follow it and gauge your progress.