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Exercise and Your Heart

Por Emiliana Faillace, Nutrition Counselor, MyDiet™ -
Exercise and Your Heart

Did you know that people with cardiovascular risk factors (such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol levels) who regularly work out have a lower mortality rate than people without risk factors who don't exercise?

Physical activity modifies the risk factors of heart disease as well as other chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, arthritis, and depression. Longitudinal studies have demonstrated that mortality risks decrease between 20 and 35% in men and women who lead an active life. Researchers translate this into burning 1000 calories a week by doing physical activity. On the other hand, sedentary women who did less than 1 hour of physical activity a week increased their mortality rate by 52% and doubled their risk of suffering from some sort of cardiovascular disease.

The authors concluded that the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle could be similar to the effects of moderate smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, or obesity. 1

Working out regularly is also important for people who already suffer from some sort of cardiovascular condition because it could help them reverse or stop the disease from progressing. It has been found that burning approximately 1,600 calories a week by doing physical activity could stop coronary disease from advancing. Similarly, consuming 2,200 calories a week could help reduce the amount of cholesterolbuildup in patients with heart disease. This means that regular physical activity contributes to a secondary prevention of heart conditions and could reduce the risk of premature death in men as well as women. 2

Physical activity improves cardiovascular health by:

  • Decreasing blood pressure
  • Increasing good cholesterol (HDL) and decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL)
  • Controlling blood glucose levels due to the body improving its use of insulin
  • Reducing stress
  • Controlling body weight
  • Helping you feel better about yourself

Any type of exercise benefits your health; however, when it comes to the heart, it's best to choose an aerobic activitythat puts your arms and legs in motion. Examples are: walking, running, swimming, riding a bike, or dancing. The current recommendation for improving cardiovascular health is to do 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity every day of the week. If you want to lose weight, you must increase sessions to 60 minutes, and to maintain your weight, increase sessions to 90 minutes.

It's always necessary to take into account some precautions while working out. For example:

  • Stop exercising if you feel fatigued or short of breath. Lie down and elevate your legs for a moment. If you don't see improvements, consult your doctor.
  • Don't exercise if you're not feeling well or if you have a fever.
  • Interrupt your physical activity if you develop an irregular or very fast heart beat. Rest for 15 minutes and take your pulse. If you're above 120 to 150 beats a minute, consult your doctor.
  • Never ignore chest pains or pains in any other part of your body. Stop exercising immediately.
  • Interrupt your exercise program if you feel weak, dizzy, or bloated due to liquid retention.


  1. American Heart Association (2008). Physical Activity and a Healthy Heart. Reviewed May, 2008 from


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