There’s no question regular exercise is good for your heart. Mild to moderate exercise helps to lower your blood pressure and triglyceride, raise HDL cholesterol, and reduce your risk of stroke and cancer. Plus, research shows daily exercise can lower your risk of heart failure by nearly half.
For this study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Heart Failure, Swedish researchers studied 39,805 people ages 20 to 90—beginning in 1997. At the start of the study, none of the patients had heart failure.
Then, using questionnaires they surveyed the participants to determine their level of physical activity—either light, moderate, or high intensity. Plus, they used questionnaires and medical records to follow the participants over 13 years.
What they found at the end of the study is that participants who got the highest amount of regular leisure-time physical activity fared the best and lowered their risk of developing heart failure by 46%. The World Health Organization recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week.
Why Exercise Helps Congestive Heart Failure
We’ve known for years that the single most prevalent risk factor for heart disease is inactivity. Sitting on the couch—or spending hours in your recliner—is one of the quickest ways to ensure that you’ll develop heart issues.
Exercise improves your heart health by triggering a whole host of biochemical and psychological effects, including improving your circulation. But perhaps the biggest benefit of exercise is that it helps to reduce inflammation—and inflammation, not cholesterol, is at the root of heart disease.
What Type of Exercise Should You Do?
I’ve long said the best type of exercise for your heart is the one that you will stick with. Walking is an excellent place to start. I recommend walking briskly for at least 30 minutes, or moderately for 45 minutes to an hour, at least four times a week. If you have a dog, taking your dog for the walk is an excellent motivator—one that’s good for you and your four-legged companion.
Other good exercise choices to prevent heart failure include yoga, Pilates, and cycling. But you want to keep your exercise to activities that are mild to moderate since vigorous exercise, such as running a marathon or doing an iron man, can increase inflammation.
Plus, remember that your favorite hobbies can also double as exercise. Playing a round of golf (without the golf cart), doubles tennis, or even gardening, can improve your cardiovascular health and prevent heart failure.
Finally, if you have heart health issues or haven’t exercised recently, you want to check in with your doctor before beginning an exercise program and follow his or her guidance on the safest way to begin exercising.