Exercise and Your Heart
Read time: 1.5 minutes
There’s no argue that exercise is good for your heart. How much exercise, though, depends on everything else that you do — for example, if you sit behind a desk all day, then you’ll need more exercise; if you’re active throughout your day, then you’ll need less.
Intensity is important to add into your exercise program — regularly if you’re less active, or periodically if you’re more active. Intensity in this context means elevating your heart rate, sometimes abruptly and often very high. This allows the heart to adapt to stressful situations, physically or psychologically.
Intensity conditions the heart to increase or retain its ejection fraction, the power of its pump to circulate blood through the body. Healthy circulation is good, both in resting and in activity.
While it’s true that more people need to get up and exercise, what’s not too clear is how much is right for the heart. Different organizations and even various experts give different answers to how much is right. But there’s no clear answer.
The health of your heart relies on multiple factors, and exercise is only one. Many people over-emphasize exercise, both in volume and intensity. If chronic high-intensity exercise brings joy, then that’s one thing. But many data show that such high volume and intensity may not be required for improved body composition or is even necessarily better for the heart.
In fact, the stress of chronic high-intensity exercise may detract from heart and overall health. Chronic high-intensity exercise has been shown to increase oxidative stress, cortisol, inflammation, and down-regulation of anti-oxidative capacity. Good way to age quickly.
Also, the stress that “we must get in the exercise,” or the guilt of missing it, may negate whatever benefit that might have been gained from the exercise itself.
The heart probably benefits from regular activity, with a mixture of low intensity and periodic high intensity. The slight increase in cardiac pump rate that comes from casual walks, the high pump rate that comes from sprint work, and the increased contractile tension that comes from lifting weight are probably good inclusions for your heart.