Never too late to start

Physical Exercise and Its Benefits
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One of the important ways to reduce the impact of ageing, which is inevitable, is regular exercise.

An inactive lifestyle, sedentary habits and lack of regular exercise are bad habits which increase the chance of getting a major cardiovascular problem like a heart attack and associated problems.

In addition, this lifestyle makes you prone to get diabetes and high blood pressure in the long run. Those who already have these problems with very little exercise makes both the problems difficult to treat and result in adding more medicines.

Regular exercise is a modifiable protective risk factor which prevents heart attacks. Other such factors being cessation of tobacco use and regular consumption of 4 to 5 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The major benefits of regular exercise are:

It strengthens your heart and blood vessels, improves your blood circulation and leads to better oxygen utilization, lowers blood pressure, helps in reducing body fat and reduces bad cholesterol levels and increases good cholesterol levels, reduces stress, anxiety, tension and depression, makes you feel relaxed and rested, improves sleepand makes you feel fit and healthy.

The 2 basic types of exercise which are always beneficial irrespective of age are: Stretching or the slow lengthening of muscles, cardiovascular or aerobic and strengthening exercises.

Aerobic Exercise has the most benefit for your heart, if done regularly it can help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure and improve your breathing. Strengthening exercises (Iso metric )are not good for patients with weak hearts and those with treated heart failureand in general for the elderly who often have with co-morbidities

Those who should be cautious of starting an exercise program: Individuals; are those individuals with heart disease, chest pains with activities, extreme shortness of breath after walking, very high blood pressure and those prone to develop giddiness on walking fast. Also, those with bone and joint pains which get aggravated by physical activity and persons with diabetes not well controlled on insulin.

Designing an exercise program:

It is important to formulate a methodology which would go a long way to make it useful. FIT formula is an accepted method.

F: Frequency of exercise, I: intensity of exercise, (Low, moderate or heavy) T: time (Duration of exercise)

Frequency of exercise; At least 3 to 5 times a week can be extended to 6 times a week. It is desirable to have one day off for the body to recover from the strains and wear and tear.

Intensity: Intensity is usually decided on the basis of a recognized parameter like Heart rate.

Calculation of Target Heart Rate (THR)

THR = 60% of Maximum heart rate = 0.6 x (220 – age).

(220 – Age = Predicted maximum heart rate)

Example of a 60-year-old man: 0.6 x (220-60) = 96 /min

Time:For the beginners the duration should be 10 to 15 minutes which should be increased to a minimum of 30 minutes and preferably 45 to 60 minutes per day.

How much exercise is recommended following a heart attack, Angioplasty or Bypass surgery?

A minimum of 30 minutes low to moderate-intensity aerobic activity (jogging, walking, cycling, stair climbing, aerobics, and swimming etc.) three to five days a week is recommended. Exercise should not be done all seven days in a week. After a cardiac event, exercise should be started by walking 5 to 10 minutes per day. Once the patient feels comfortable with this level of exercise, gradually the duration may be increased up to five minutes each week. The speed of walking can also be increased slowly.

Exercising regularly, making changes in daily schedule like avoiding high calorie diets and stopping or minimizing smoking is a very important adjunct. Regular exercise reduces high blood pressure and cholesterol levels and helps maintain fitness and health.

Symptoms to watch for during an exercise program for persons with a history of heart disease:

Shortness of breath during exercise which was not there before, Chest heaviness or discomfort, dizziness or giddiness and undue sweating. Anyone getting any of these symptoms needs to see a doctor and hold an exercise program till then.

Take Home Message:

Exercise is one of the most effective strategies for preventing heart attacks. It is inexpensive and does not require any special training. It is recommended for all healthy individuals and should start early in life for maximum benefit. However, it is never too late to embark upon. Patients with heart disease also benefit from this immensely but need to be careful before starting an exercise program.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK

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