6 Ways Physical Activity Affects your Heart Health


Physical activity for heart is the best way to keep your body and mind healthy. Heart disease has become one of the most common causes of death worldwide.  In the United States alone, Cardiovascular disease accounts for 25% of deaths each year. This has gradually increased over the years because of a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy choice of foods, smoking, drinking alcohol and low levels of regular exercise.  However, there are many factors that lead to heart disease that one cannot control such as age, gender, and the family history of cardiovascular disease.

6 Ways Physical Activity Affects your Heart

Reasons for why physical activity should be part of your daily routine.

1. Regular exercise lowers blood pressure

A healthy heart pushes out more blood with each beat, and every heart beats more than 100,000 times a day.  This enables the heart to work efficiently controlling the pressure of the blood pumping throughout the body. Blood pressure plays a vital role in decreasing stress on the heart and surrounding arteries, potentially reducing blood pressure.  The ideal blood pressure of an adult is at or below 120/80mm Hg. However, if the blood pressure rises it damages the blood vessels throughout the body. This increases the risk of cardiovascular disease or even a heart attack.

Top cardiologist, Dr. Sohail Khan says that making lifestyle changes such as exercising can lower your blood pressure drastically. He also says that research proves that if you practice 30 minutes of exercise (physical activity) 5 times a week can reduce blood pressure to 5 mm of mercury.

Dr Sohail Khan in a Video explaining how lifestyle changes can lower your blood pressure and keep your heart healthy.

However, studies prove that regular physical activity controls your heart rate and strengthens your heart. Exercise controls the pressure of the heart and normalizes the flow of the blood to your heart. Thus, even if you don’t have high blood pressure, Physical activity may help prevent it from rising as you age.

“Exercise as an insurance policy that may offer both short- and long-term protection for your heart.” – Dr. Wasfy

2. Exercise decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes

Diabetes causes high levels of sugar or glucose in the blood. If not kept under control, it can cause deadly diseases and cause damage to the organs in the body. High levels of diabetes affect the heart and cardiovascular system leading to heart disease, heart attack or stroke. 

Many doctors recommend physical therapy for those who want to control their diabetes and have never exercised before. “Being active does not only manage your diabetes but decreases the need for insulin”, says Dr. Alison Smith, a physical therapist specializing in therapy for diabetic patients mostly. 

Regular exercise can help the body to control both insulin and glucose efficiently, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Studies show that physical activity help reduce the risk of heart disease as much as 21% for men and 29% for women. 

Dr. Ann Allbright, Director of the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, says that women are 40% more likely to have heart disease than men. She also says, “the best way to manage diabetes is to eat healthily, get more activity and take your medications as prescribed.” 

The Diabetes-Heart Disease Connection

3. Physical activity helps to lower the Bad Cholesterol (LDL) and increase the Good Cholesterol (HDL) 

The liver constructs a compound called cholesterol in your body to run several functions in the body, including digestion, the production of vitamin D and several hormones. However, a sedentary lifestyle combined with the consumption of high-fat foods leads to the cause of high cholesterol. Bad cholesterol can cause the blood vessels to become hard and clogged leading to heart disease.  

Whereas, HDL Cholesterol carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to the liver to flush it out of the body. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol in the blood lowers your risk for heart disease or heart stroke. 

Dr. Dennis Ko, a cardiologist at the Schulich Heart Centre, Canada said “It is not the HDL Cholesterol that gives you a healthy heart but the exercise and diet that leads to good cholesterol.” After doing a research study on 630,000 Ontarians, he says that having moderate levels of HDL is better and can avoid the risk of heart disease.

Thus, regular exercise and physical activity, combined with a healthy diet can help to lower LDL cholesterol in the body by 10% and increase HDL cholesterol by improving your blood lipid levels.  



4. maintain a healthy weight

Physical activities such as brisk walking, yoga, strength training, cardio exercise or aerobics help to shed those extra kilos off your weight. Being beyond your actual weight causes an array of health problems and this excess weight puts pressure on your heart and the arteries around it. It could lead to a stroke or heart attack. Thus, low-fat diet, exercise and physical activity every day can ward off those pounds, keep you fit and healthy and keep your heart safe at the same time.

Dr. Michael Rocha, a cardiologist and the Director of Heart Failure Services at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford works on the perception of heart failure into Heart wellness. In his Ted Talk on How to Keep Your Heart from Killing You, he says “being sedentary was twice more deadly than as being obese. Also, 4 out of 5 heart attacks could be prevented by eating healthy, exercising, not smoking and maintaining a normal waistline.” 

He further adds that “Just 20 minutes of exercise a day can reduce the risk of death and a Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30%.”  His research further adds on how “you are 5 times more likely to have a heart attack 2 hours after an angry encounter.” 

How to keep your Heart from Killing you

5. eXERCISE lowers stress levels and makes you feel happier

As per finding of researchers “happiest people were 22% less likely to develop heart disease over the 10 years of follow-up than people who fell in the middle of the negative-positive emotion scale”. Out of the candidates studied – the ones who were the most negative emotions has highest heart risk, however, the ones who were the happiest had the lowest risk. Therefore it is recommended to utilize at least 15-20 daily in doing something you enjoy and relax. Have you ever tried Laughter Therapy by Practicing Laughter Yoga . 

On the other hand, increase in stress levels also increases the release of stress hormones effecting heart health. With the result the heart beats faster and increases Blood Pressure. 

Dr. Sharon Horesh Bergquist is a renowned physician at The Emory Clinic and an assistant professor at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. In her animated Ted Talk Video, she said, “Activated stress for too long leads to damage in the brain and other organs in the body. Your adrenal gland releases the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, and norepinephrine. These hormones travel through your bloodstream and reach your blood vessels and heart. This causes your heart to beat faster and raises your blood pressure, over time causing hypertension. These changes increase your chances of a heart attack or stroke.”

However, there are a number of ways to reduce anxiety. You could practice yoga breathing (pranayama), meditation, forest bathing, cardiovascular exercises at home or the gym or aerobics. Physical activity of any kind increases the happy chemicals in the brain and improves heart-health by lifting your mood and self-confidence.

6. strengthens the heart muscle

It is very well known that exercise strengthens and tones your muscles. But, did you know that it also strengthens your heart muscles? Yes, it does. How so?  The left ventricle of the heart is responsible for pumping out fresh oxygenated blood out of the heart and distributes it to the rest of the body.

Thus, regular exercise gives the left ventricle a little helping hand in pumping out blood when it is unable to. This blood flow is supplied to all the organs, muscles and systems of the body to help with its duties.

Ideally, one should do 150 minutes of exercise over the course of 5 days. You can easily spread it out into 10 minutes segments through the day. As per Barbara Dinsdale, a Lifestyle Manager at Heart Research UK, explains the importance of exercise in the overall health and strength of your heart and its muscles. Barbara recommends to plan 150 minutes of physical activity for 5 days.

Exercise for Your Heart 


Make an Exercise Plan

If you are a newbie to exercise and want to take care of your heart, then it is best to ask your doctor what kind of physical activity you should indulge in. If you have a history of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, dizziness, or exercise-related pain, let your doctor plan your exercise program or stick to low or moderate-intensity exercises. Such as walking, cycling, swimming, Zumba, and yoga.

Consult a certified trainer, who will plan a smart and well-designed exercise routine for you. However, most importantly pay attention to your diet. Because it is said that 80% diet and 20% physical activity contributes to a healthy body and mind. Especially if you want to lose weight.

Your heart health can improve with just 30 minutes of exercise on most of the days.  A very simple trick I learned from a friend is the talk/sing test. If you can sing while exercising then, you need to work harder on your exercise. But, if you can’t talk while you exercise then, you are working too hard. Slow down for a bit.  

Stay healthy! Stay fit!

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