The cardioprotective benefits of regular aerobic exercise and strength training.
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a leading cause of death worldwide. It occurs when the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart become narrowed or blocked (a process known as atherosclerosis) which can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath, and heart attacks. Lifestyle changes, including regular structured exercise, are essential in the management and prevention of CHD. In this blog post, we will discuss the cardioprotective benefits of aerobic exercise and strength training.
Aerobic exercise, or cardiovascular exercise, increases your heart rate and breathing rate. Walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, and dancing are examples of aerobic exercise. These types of activities, when performed at the optimal frequency, intensity, and duration, can have multiple cardioprotective health benefits. These include:
- Reducing effects of atherosclerosis by improving the function of the inner lining (endothelium) of the coronary arteries and reducing inflammation.
- Reducing the risk of a blood clots in the coronary arteries (coronary thrombosis).
- Reducing the oxygen demands of the heart muscle.
- Reducing the risk of myocardial ischemia by increasing blood supply to the heart.
- Reducing risk of irregular heart rhythms by improving the electrical stability and autonomic nervous system control of the heart.
- Reducing blood pressure via the shearing force on the endothelial wall of the arteries which enhances the release of nitric oxide improving widening of the coronary arteries (vasodilation).
Regular aerobic exercise can help increase your cardiovascular fitness, making it easier for you to perform daily activities, such as climbing stairs or carrying groceries, without experiencing chest pain or shortness of breath. Importantly, those with higher cardiovascular fitness have significantly fewer cardiac events.
Strength training involves using weights, resistance bands or your body weight to strengthen your muscles. Using two bottles of water or canned vegetables may be sufficient weight if you are not familiar with strength training. One of the key benefits of strength training is the associated improvements in your body composition. Your resting energy expenditure, also known as resting metabolic rate, is largely dependent on your proportion of lean body mass. Therefore, increasing your muscle mass through strength training improves your ability to manage your weight. Strength training can also increase insulin sensitivity which is important in the management of type 2 diabetes. This is important as obesity and diabetes are significant risk factors for CHD.
Strength training may be more beneficial than aerobic exercise in the initial stages of cardiac rehabilitation or if you are particularly deconditioned to help stabilise the skeleton. Improving stability improves your ability to move more efficiently and can therefore increase your aerobic capacity indirectly. Strength training can also reduce our risk of falls and injuries which can lead to immobility and deconditioning from prolonged inactivity.
For more information please join us for our next exercise post cardiac event education session.
Written by James Murray, Cardiac Physiotherapist.