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Dr. Stewart’s clinical and research interests include cardiovascular disease rehabilitation and prevention, and peripheral arterial disease. Learn more about Dr. Stewart.
Exercise has many positive effects on heart health. A regular exercise routine can help:
“One of the key benefits of exercise is that it helps to control or modify many of the risk factors for heart disease,” says Dr. Kerry J. Stewart, Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “Smoking is another big factor for heart disease, and if you exercise regularly you’re unlikely to take on a bad habit like smoking, or quit if you already are a smoker.”
Additional benefits of exercise:
A number of studies have also shown that people who exercise regularly are less likely to suffer a sudden heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac event.
While exercise has benefits in and of itself, the best way to prevent heart disease is to combine exercise with a healthy diet. Exercise alone can help with weight loss over a long period of time. But a short-term approach is to reduce the number of calories you take in through diet, while increasing the calories you use through exercise.
The best exercise has a positive effect on the heart and improves the skeletmuscular system.
The American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine both recommend combining aerobic exercise (jogging, swimming, biking) with resistance training (moderate weightlifting). Together, these two categories of exercise produce the greatest benefit for preventing and managing heart disease.
If you’re having a healthy pregnancy, and you exercised regularly before you were pregnant, it’s beneficial to keep up a moderate routine. This regimen can include walking, swimming or bike riding. You’ll continue to receive the same cardiovascular benefits.
If you’re pregnant and everyday exercise has not been part of your life, you should probably stick with a milder exercise. In both instances, it makes sense to seek advice from your physician.
The National Institute of Health, the American Heart Association, and the American College of Sports Medicine are all good sources for assistance in choosing the right exercise routine.
Johns Hopkins has a clinical exercise center which offers medically supervised programs and exercise guidelines based on scientific evidence. We evaluate fitness levels and consider medical history before starting people on exercise regimens. There are similar medical fitness centers throughout the country.
General guidelines call for a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training. Try to get in a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise such as walking, cycling or swimming at least five days a week. Do moderate weightlifting to tone muscles and build muscle endurance twice a week, or frequently enough to cover the major muscle groups.
There are many ways to chart your exercise progress. Three of the most common are target heart rate for aerobic exercise, number of repetitions for weight training, and fat vs. muscle body composition.
Setting a target heart rate with a qualified trainer or health professional is the simplest way to keep your workout within a healthy range.
An important sign of overwork is fatigue and soreness that stays with you longer than a day or two after you exercise. Any persistent pain could mean you’ve overused or have injured a muscle.
The key to a successful exercise routine is staying interested and motivated. Here are a few ways to keep exercise a lifelong habit:
“If we compare a person’s initial fitness response to testing, to responses three to six months later, we see progress,” says Dr. Stewart. “The oxygen consumption will be higher. The time on the treadmill will be longer. The heart rate and blood pressure will be lower. It’s like tuning up your engine. Only the engine is your heart and the body’s circulatory system for distributing blood, and it’s working more efficiently.”