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Exercise and a
Healthy Heart

The heart is a muscle that pumps blood around the body, and like all muscles it needs exercise/activity. Exercise is a good way to stay healthy, without it the body becomes more prone to illness and disease.

Facts about exercise
Exercise helps to burn excess calories and helps people to lose weight. It has a direct beneficial effect on the cholesterol and other fats in the blood too.

Exercise improves the circulation and helps the heart work more efficiently; this helps protect against heart disease.

  • Exercise can strengthen bones and keep the joints and muscles supple.
  • Exercise is a good stress reliever.
  • Exercise helps people sleep.
  • Exercise can and should be enjoyable.
  • Exercise need not cost anything.

How to begin
Anyone who has not exercised for a while, should not over do it, begin slowly and steadily.

Exercise does not have to be exhausting runs, buying expensive equipment or joining a health club. Building a brisk walk into the daily routine can be enough to give the heart the workout/activity it needs.

The Golden Rule is if the exercise starts to hurt, stop immediately

FIRST STEPS

  • Do some walking everyday.
  • Think twice before using the car or bus.
  • Use stairs instead of lifts or escalators.
  • Involve the family. Walking is good for everyone, including children.

Whatever exercise is chosen make it something that is enjoyable. There is no point in doing something that will become a chore.

Activities such as walking, cycling or swimming are easier to keep up as people grow older, because the pace can be controlled. Another suggestion is to explore the local leisure centre. There will be plenty of choices there for all fitness levels.

Keep fit classes are worth investigating. Graduated exercises, preferably under professional supervision are also worthwhile.

A few sensible precautions

  • People with a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, or who have not exercised in a long time should consult the doctor about exercise before they begin.
  • Do not indulge in vigorous outdoor exercise in very hot or cold weather, or within two hours of a heavy meal.
  • Always warm up.
  • Allow time for “cooling down” relaxation after exercise.
  • Check the credentials of anyone offering supervision as a trainer, coach or aerobic dance instructor.

Remember

The Golden Rule is if the exercise starts to hurt, stop immediately

People with respiratory problems or heart disease should check with the doctor before starting regular exercise. It is possible that extra precautions may be needed.

Walk regularly and build up gradually. It may take about 8 to 12 weeks to start to feel the difference but it will be worth it.

TAKE IT IN YOUR STRIDE
Anyone who has not exercised for a while, should follow this simple guide to build up their walking power.

    WEEKS 1 AND 2 Brisk walking for 5 to 10 minutes, 2 or 3 times a week.

    WEEKS 3 AND 4 Increase to 10 to 15 minutes,
    2 or 3 times a week

    WEEKS 5 AND 6 15 to 20 minutes,
    3 or 5 times a week.

When walking let the arms swing easily by the sides. Walk fast enough to breathe deeply, but not so fast that a conversation cannot take place.

When 20 minutes brisk walking 5 times a week is reached, gradually make the walks longer or introduce a gradual climb into the walk. Special equipment is not needed just a good pair of strong and comfortable shoes (trainers, for example) which support the heels and arches.

Frequently asked questions

    Q I HAVE TO WALK A LOT IN MY WORK, BUT I DON’T STRlDE; SHOULD l?
    A Yes, for walking to be effective as an exercise, it should be fast enough to make you a little breathless.

    Q I AM GETTING ON A BIT AND l DON’T WANT TO RISK PUTTING A STRAIN ON MY HEART. IS WALKING REALLY FOR ME?
    A Yes. Walking is very low risk and if you build it up gradually your heart will grow stronger. You will have more energy to do other things and you will have fewer aches and pains, as your muscles get stronger.

    Q IS WALKING EVER A BAD IDEA?
    A If you have respiratory problems or heart disease you should check with your doctor before starting regular exercise. It is possible that you will be advised to take up walking but you may have to take a few extra precautions.

IF YOU REQUIRE FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE TALK
TO YOUR DOCTOR, NURSE ADVISER OR ST HELENS & KNOWSLEY HEALTH PROMOTION UNIT
TELEPHONE 0151 289 2021

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