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Exercise and improving cardiovascular health

(Photo: Shutterstock)
(Photo: Shutterstock)
If our bodies were a city, the cardiovascular (CV) system would be the transportation system, moving goods and waste to areas all over the city. The CV system is responsible for delivering nutrients such as glucose (sugar) and oxygen to all parts of the body and supplying muscles and organs with everything they need in order to function and be healthy. اضافة اعلان

Additionally, the CV system is responsible for removing waste from the body to be broken down or expelled via the kidneys, liver, or lungs. A healthy CV system is important to overall health, and extends to other aspects of health such as mental health.
 
Unfortunately, Jordan has growing concerns relating to CV health. A 2020 study found that on average 86.3 percent of men and 67.1 percent of women have two or more risk factors for developing a CV disease. Furthermore, a 2019 report released by the Ministry of Health found that a little over 30 percent of all deaths in Jordan could be attributed to CV diseases, making it the number one cause of death in the Kingdom. 

Some risk factors for developing CV diseases can be prevented, while others cannot. Regardless, the risk of developing a CV disease can be greatly mitigated through physical activity that improves CV health.

What are the benefits of exercise?

Exercise has many benefits that extend to other aspects of health. In regards to CV health, physical activity can help reduce the harmful effects of other risk factors. 

An example of this is seen in weight. Overweight and obese individuals are at a greater risk for developing a CV disease. It increases your risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure), dyslipidemia (abnormal fat levels in the blood), and reduces the chance of developing diabetes by helping manage blood sugar levels in diabetics. 

Firstly, exercise can help reduce body weight, which in turn will help to reduce blood pressure. Additionally, exercise has been shown to reduce LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or “bad” cholesterol levels and total cholesterol, as well as improve HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or “good” cholesterol levels. 

Finally, in diabetics, exercise helps improve the body’s use of insulin on blood sugar to better control glucose levels. Although exercise alone generally only results in a minimal reduction of risk, when combined with other preventative measures such as diet, medication, and smoking cessation, the effects can be dramatic.

What happens when you do not exercise?

As previously mentioned, CV diseases are a leading cause of mortality, especially in Jordan, and physical activity can help reduce the risks associated with developing diseases. In turn, physical activity is a strong predicator for mortality. 

A US study involving veterans divided the subjects into five categories based on physical fitness, from least physically fit to most fit. With 6,213 men over a six-year observation period, they were able to compare the risks of death after adjusting for age. 

Their results found a negative trend between relative risk of mortality and physical fitness, the greatest reduction being between those that were least physically fit and the second least fit. As a result, it was determined that physical fitness and daily activity levels have a strong influence on CV diseases and over mortality, as well as being a stronger predicator of other established risk factors.

How much is enough?

According to a US Surgeon General’s Report, as well as the Center of Disease Control and Prevention and American College of Sports Medicine statement in 1996, the recommended guideline for physical activity is 30 minutes or more of moderate intensity activity seven days a week. Moderate activities included a brisk walk of about 5 to 8km/h, cycling, or swimming, but may also include yard work, household tasks, and recreational and occupational activities.
 
In theory, 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily should equate to roughly 600 to 1,200 calories burnt weekly. Since then, these guidelines have been adopted as the international standard of the least required amount of physical activity with an emphasis on 30 minutes daily. 

Exercises

Exercising may be difficult, especially with age and increased workload. People may find it difficult to carve time out in their day or simply feel as though they are not physically fit enough to perform exercises. 

Fortunately, as seen above, it does not require a lot of time or effort to drastically improve your physical and CV health. Setting aside 30 minutes a day is nothing in comparison to the years added to your life and exercise itself is not difficult and well within the wheelhouse of the average individual. 

Before incorporating any new exercise regimen in your daily life, it is important to consult healthcare professional if you currently have CV disease or are over the age of 45 and have two or more risk factors. These risk factors include having an immediate family member with a CV disease under the age of 55, smoking, high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, or obesity.

In order to understand how beneficial exercise can be, it is important to understand what METs are. MET is the ratio of working metabolic rate relative to the metabolic rate at rest. For example, if an exercise has a MET of four, this means that this exercise expends four times the amount energy than if you were at rest. In short, more vigorous exercises will have a higher MET, whereas less intense exercises will have a lower MET.

1. Walking: Walking 30 minutes a day at 3 to 5km/h has a MET of 2.5 to 3.5 and will burn roughly 87 to 123 calories in that time.

2. Cycling: Riding your bike at a leisurely pace for 30 minutes a day has a MET of 4 and will burn 140 calories in that time.

3. Swimming: Swimming 30 minutes a day at a slow pace has a MET of 4.5 and will burn roughly 158 calories in that time.

4. Running: Running roughly 9.5km/h for 10 minutes has a MET of 10.2 and will burn roughly 118 calories in that time.
 
If these exercises are too difficult to incorporate into your daily life, there are plenty of alternatives. You can create your own exercises, the rule of thumb being an increase in heart rate from that of resting. Alternatively, changing daily habits can supplement exercises. For instance, taking the stairs regularly instead of using the elevator, or walking to the supermarket instead of driving can be a good change. Any amount of physical activity will improve your overall health and longevity.

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