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February 5, 2015
Be Good to Your Heart During Heart Month and Beyond

The Power of Exercise

Many New Year’s resolutions revolve around improving overall health and fitness with a pledge to exercise more. For some, the beginning of every year has great potential for a health revolution. Unfortunately, for most, the vision of fitness becomes an afterthought, and the benefits of exercise are forgotten. To keep the flame of New Year’s resolution burning longer, we will briefly explore the cardiovascular benefits of exercise.

Many risk factors for cardiovascular disease (plaque in the arteries) are modifiable. These include: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, tobacco abuse, obesity, and physical inactivity. Regular exercise can result in an improvement in quality of life, cardiovascular and physical fitness, and can have a positive impact on weight control. In addition, regular exercise can lead to an improvement in several of these modifiable, cardiovascular risk factors, specifically:

Improvement of cholesterol levels: reduces triglycerides, increase HDL

Reduction in blood pressure: within 4 weeks of regular exercise, blood pressure can lower as much as 5 to 15 mmHg

Treatment and prevention of diabetes: decreases insulin resistance and can lower rate of progression to Type 2 Diabetes

Cardiovascular guidelines recommend adults perform moderate intensity aerobic exercise or vigorous exercise. The prescription for both is as follows:

Moderate-intensity: aerobic exercise for 150 minutes every week (30 minutes 5 days/week) and muscle-strengthening activity involving all major muscle groups at least two days per week. Examples of moderate intensity exercise include brisk walking, doubles tennis and water aerobics.

Vigorous-intensity: aerobic exercise for 75 minutes every week (15 minutes, 5 days/ week) and muscle-strengthening activities involving all major muscle groups at least two days per week. Examples of vigorous intensity exercise include running, intense aerobics, and fast swimming.

Some studies have demonstrated a reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease with as little as one hour of moderate intensity exercise per week. The bottom line is some exercise is better than none. Get moving!

Paul Santolucito, M.D., is a board-certified cardiologist with Harrington Physician Services. He received his medical degree from the University of Massachusetts. To schedule an appointment, call 508-764-6041.