Heart to Hartman

Health Guide for Congenital Heart Disease

Exactly how is exercise good for you?

We may have all heard that exercise is good for us, but do we know exactly what is going on in our body when we exercise that makes it so good for us? First, I need to define a few exercise terms. Cardiovascular exercise is any activity that increases your breathing and heart rate done for a period of time using large muscle groups to accomplish a goal. Resistance exercise is using any form of resistance to increase muscle strength and endurance. For example, a push up uses body weight and it is a form of resistance training. Some people love cardiovascular exercise or “cardio” and some hate it. Some love to “lift weights” or resistance train, but ideally you do a little bit of both. Some people with various defects, should not lift heavy weight and you probably have been told this by your physician. What is “heavy weight”? You have to move your body weight daily so is it OK for you to train with your body weight? If you do not know the answer to that question, then you must first find that out before choosing or not choosing resistance training.

Performing cardiovascular training has many benefits. With regular bouts of 30 minutes of moderate cardio such as walking, 5 times each week, the heart will become stronger. It can then pump more blood with less beats. The blood vessels also retain their elasticity and their ability to effectively keep blood moving through all the vessels in the body. If blood vessel retain their elasticity, the risk of developing high blood pressure decreases. Exercise can also lower high blood pressure by as much as 4 mm Hg for both systolic ( the top number) and diastolic ( the bottom number) Cardio also has an insulin like effect on blood sugar, meaning that more glucose, or sugar is removed from the blood and used by the muscle which decreases the risk of developing Type II diabetes, and can help treat it too!. Regular cardio can also increase the good cholesterol (HDL) which actually removes bad cholesterol from the blood decreasing the risk of developing acquired heart disease. Finally cardiovascular exercise can help control stress by increasing dopamine, the feel good hormone, and it can promote better quality sleep.

Resistance training also has benefits for you cardiovascular system. Changes in the heart are similar to those for aerobic (cardio) training. The heart wall thickens because it is stronger. It is able to pump more blood per beat; due to the improving of its systolic as well as diastolic function. In other words, the heart fills more efficiently and pumps more efficiently. Blood pressure also is decreased as a result of resistance training, although the effect is not as large.as cardio. Resistance training also improves the blood vessel lining, and vascular resistance. Resistance training can also lower total cholesterol and LDLs ( the bad cholesterol) However, the decrease may be due to the loss of fat mass associated with exercise. Decreasing the risk of developing type II diabetes is also another benefit of lifting a few weights.

If you are wondering if you are doing enough exercise or doing as much as you can, check out the next post entitled, “How much exercise is right for me?”

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Heart to Hartman

Health Guide for Congenital Heart Disease


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