Boost your Heart Health: Benefits of Exercise for the Heart

We are currently in the midst of British Heart Week, which goes from 7 to 15 June, and we’re reflecting on all the things we can do to help keep our hearts strong and healthy. There are so many benefits of exercise, including a strong correlation between exercise and heart health.

Here are some of the benefits of exercise when it comes to keeping your heart healthy:

Manage blood sugar and insulin resistance 

Exercise helps to lower the levels of glucose in your blood and makes your body more sensitive to insulin – the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. This makes you less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, a condition that can damage blood vessels and nerves. If you already have type 2 diabetes, exercise can help you manage it.

Maintain a healthy weight

This isn’t just for vanity purposes! Obesity is one of the leading contributors to heart disease as it puts extra strain on several of your body’s functions and increases the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Reduce plaque build-up in the arteries 

Exercise helps to keep your arteries clear and reduces the build-up of plaque in arteries. This improves blood flow, decreases the risk of heart attack, and makes you less likely to develop coronary heart disease.

Help the heart work more efficiently 

Exercise strengthens the muscle layer of the heart, improving its ability to pump blood through the body. Working out causes more blood to flow to your muscles and leads to higher levels of oxygen in the blood, which is great for your heart!

Reduce C-reactive protein (CRP)  

Being stagnant leads to an increase of CRP (a protein produced by the liver), which can cause inflammation in the body and can lead to heart disease. Exercise helps to lower CRP levels.

Lower stress levels 

If you feel stressed out often, this can lead to high blood pressure. Exercise has been proven to have a positive influence on stress and anxiety. Even if you have a super busy schedule, try to take 30 minutes per day to get in some sort of movement – your heart will thank you for it!

Improve metabolism 

This ties back into the benefit of helping you maintain your weight. Regular exercise increases your resting metabolic rate, which makes your body more efficient at converting calories into energy. Having a healthy level of body fat for your frame will help you maintain a healthy blood pressure and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. 

What’s the best type of exercise for heart health? 

All forms of exercise are great for your heart, particularly aerobic exercise and resistance training.

Aerobic exercise is a particular favourite among experts for the way it improves circulation, lowers blood pressure, and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. Aim for 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. Some great examples are running, swimming, cycling, and sports like tennis and basketball – basically anything that gets your heart pumping and gets you breathing faster!

Resistance training is also proven to be great for your heart, helping to reduce body fat and increase lean muscle. About 60 minutes per week is perfect, split between two or three sessions with time to recover in between. Training with dumbbells, resistance machines, resistance bands, and body-weight exercises are all great forms of resistance training.

While each is effective on its own, hitting the right balance between aerobic and resistance training is the sweet spot to help you really enjoy the benefits of exercise for your heart!

Please note that if you have a history of heart disease, certain exercises may not be suitable. Always speak to your doctor before beginning a new workout routine. 

What are some other ways you can keep your heart healthy? 

So, we understand the importance of exercise for the heart. What other practices can you add into your life to help encourage a strong heart?

Quit smoking. Smoking damages arteries, which forces your heart to work harder. If you’re a smoker, try your hardest to break the habit.

Eat nutritious foods. A healthy diet full of whole plant foods and lean proteins leads to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, and helps you manage your weight. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats like nuts, and lean sources of protein should make up the bulk of your diet. Limit ultra-processed and sugary snacks, and swap processed and red meats (which are high in unhealthy saturated fats) for heart-healthy options like oily fish, lean chicken, and plant proteins like tofu and tempeh.

Prioritise your sleep. Being sleep-deprived makes you more likely to develop high blood pressure and makes it harder to manage your weight. Aim for eight hours each night.

Avoid sitting for long periods. Being dormant for long stretches of time increases the risk of high blood pressure and obesity. If you work at a computer, try to stand and walk around for a few minutes each hour.

Train as a fitness professional to help others build healthy hearts 

Most of our courses are based around forms of exercise that improve heart health! Click each one to learn more about the course, view upcoming course dates, and get in touch with us to help launch your fitness career.

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