Introduction to Physical Exercise and Cardiovascular Health

The influence of regular physical activity on the structures and functions of the cardiovascular system. Regular aerobic exercise has numerous effects on the cardiovascular system, improving the heart’s pumping efficiency as well as the circulation’s oxygen transport to the tissues of the body.

It also improves the efficiency with which cells throughout the body, and notably those of skeletal muscle, use oxygen. This decreases demand on the heart, generally slowing the heart rate and decreasing blood pressure.

As well, physical activity increases insulin sensitivity, which helps the body maintain a healthy blood lipid balance to reduce the risk for hyperlipidemia.

Physical Exercise Recommendations

  • 30 to 45 minutes of moderate physical activity five to seven days a week
  • 20 to 45 minutes of vigorous physical exercise three to four days a week

Health experts consider physical inactivity to be the prime lifestyle factor contributing to most acquired cardiovascular disease (cvd). Though recommendations call for 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise daily and 30 to 45 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise three to four times a week, fewer than 20 percent of American adults are physically active at these levels and about 20 percent get no physical exercise at all.

Health experts attribute at least 250,000 of deaths from cardiovascular disease to physical inactivity.

Yet the level of physical activity that could prevent these deaths is minimal, only 30 minutes a day of moderately brisk walking (a pace of 3 to 4 miles per hour).

Small amounts of moderately intense physical activity that accumulate to the recommended exercise times are equally effective as contiguous blocks of exercise time, an important finding to emerge from recent research into the relationship between physical activity and cardiovascular health.

Meeting the recommended minimum activity levels could prevent as much as 40 percent of cardiovascular disease. Ideal activities for cardiovascular health include walking, bicycling, running, and swimming.

See also AEROBIC FITNESS; CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE PREVENTION; DIET AND CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH; DIET AND HEALTH; EXERCISE AND HEALTH; LIFESTYLE AND CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH; WALKING FOR FITNESS.

Physical Exercise and Cardiovascular Health
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