The importance of exercise for ageing heart health
04 November The importance of exercise for aging heart health Posted at 08: 19h in Old people through Right exercise Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death around the world and in Australia. About 27% of all deaths and 11% of all hospitalizations are attributed to cardiovascular disease in Australia, with more than […]

The importance of exercise for aging heart health

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death around the world and in Australia. About 27% of all deaths and 11% of all hospitalizations are attributed to cardiovascular disease in Australia, with more than 80% of hospitalizations involving people over the age of 55.

Very high rates of CVD exist for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those living in remote areas (including farming communities).

Heart disease is closely linked to risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, inactivity, overweight, poor diet, and depression.

The benefits of exercise

Exercise is wonderful for the heart, both for preventing cardiovascular disease in the first place and for “rehabilitating” the heart after a major event like a heart attack. There is excellent information provided by the National Heart Foundation of Australia on exercise for people with CVD.

More and more, exercise has been shown to benefit the hearts of people with cancer or mental health problems. The heart is a muscle and like any other muscle, it benefits from exercise. It will get slower but stronger and often lower blood pressure. Exercise can also help the body process cholesterol, sugars, and fats. If the benefits of exercise could be captured in a single pill, it would be the most prescribed drug in the world.

Things to know

If you already have cardiovascular disease, your doctor or other health care professional should have recommended some form of exercise. The first thing to do is get proper exercise advice and a personalized exercise program from a Certified exercise physiologist.

You should start with a proper exercise assessment which should allow the exercise professional to design a program that is right for you that is both safe and effective. Then, when you are in class, it is important that you watch for any symptoms you may experience during or immediately after exercise and report them to your exercise professional as soon as possible. This way any new or worsening of your condition can be treated appropriately so that you can quickly resume exercise and a good lifestyle.

There are currently many smart fitness devices (watches, smartphone apps) on the market that can be very useful, but these often need to be adjusted for people with CVD. For example, it is often inappropriate or even unsafe to use heart rate guides on these smart devices if you have cardiovascular disease. Again, your certified exercise professional will guide you on this.

Recommended types of exercise

The main forms of exercise known to improve heart health are aerobic exercise and strength training. Aerobic exercise includes walking, jogging (if you can), cycling, and swimming, as well as all variations such as golf or tennis. These modes of exercise can also be performed in a gym using a treadmill or a gym bike.

Strength training includes lifting weights, using machines, rubber bands, balls, or simple equipment like a park bench or wall, or even using your body weight as a “resistance”. It is important for people with CVD that your exercise program is designed based on an appropriate assessment early on.

Talk to the exercise professionals

ESSA has an online directory of over 6,000 accredited exercise physiologists in Australia, highly trained to help you develop and implement a safe, effective and personalized exercise program.

Certified exercise physiologists will understand the nature of any cardiovascular disease you may have, and will be able to assess you properly, design a plan you will love to do, and then support you not only in the right times, but also in other times which may be difficult.

To learn more, read the Exercise for Seniors eBook! Download here.

Expert Contributor: Professor Steve Selig, Accredited Exercise Physiologist and ESSA Fellow


If you’re having trouble beginning an exercise plan or following through, you’re not alone. Many of us struggle getting out of the sedentary rut, despite our best intentions.

You already know there are many great reasons to exercise—from improving energy, mood, sleep, and health to reducing anxiety, stress, and depression. And detailed exercise instructions and workout plans are just a click away. But if knowing how and why to exercise was enough, we’d all be in shape. Making exercise a habit takes more—you need the right mindset and a smart approach.

While practical concerns like a busy schedule or poor health can make exercise more challenging, for most of us, the biggest barriers are esprit. Maybe it’s a lack of self-confidence that keeps you from taking positive steps, or your détermination quickly flames out, or you get easily discouraged and give up. We’ve all been there at some point.

Whatever your age or sport level—even if you’ve never exercised a day in your life —there are steps you can take to make exercise less intimidating and painful and more fun and instinctive.

Ditch the all-or-nothing attitude. You don’t have to spend hours in a gym or force yourself into monotonous or painful activities you hate to experience the physical and emotional benefits of exercise. A little exercise is better than nothing. In fact, adding just modest amounts of physical activity to your weekly routine can have a profound effect on your esprit and emotional health.

Be kind to yourself. Research shows that self-compassion increases the likelihood that you’ll succeed in any given endeavor. So, don’t beat yourself up about your body, your current fitness level, or your supposed lack of willpower. All that will do is demotivate you. Instead, look at your past mistakes and unhealthy choices as opportunities to learn and grow.

Check your expectations. You didn’t get out of shape overnight, and you’re not going to instantly transform your body either. Expecting too much, too soon only leads to frustration. Try not to be discouraged by what you can’t accomplish or how far you have to go to reach your fitness goals. Instead of obsessing over results, focus on consistency. While the improvements in mood and energy levels may happen quickly, the physical payoff will come in time.

Many of us feel the same. If sweating in a gym or pounding a treadmill isn’t your idea of a great time, try to find an activity that you do enjoy—such as dancing—or pair physical activity with something more enjoyable. Take a walk at lunchtime through a scenic park, for example, walk laps of an air-conditioned mall while window de course, walk, run, or bike with a friend, or listen to your favorite music while you move.

Even the busiest of us can find free time in our day for activities that are important. It’s your decision to make exercise a priority. And don’t think you need a full hour for a good workout. Short 5-, 10-, or 15-minute bursts of activity can prove very effective—so, too, can squeezing all your exercise into a couple of sessions over the weekend. If you’re too busy during the week, get up and get moving during the weekend when you have more time.

The key thing to remember about starting an exercise program is that something is always better than nothing. Going for a quick walk is better than sitting on the couch; one minute of activity will help you lose more weight than no activity at all. That said, the current recommendations for most adults is to reach at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. You’ll get there by exercising for 30 minutes, 5 times a week. Can’t find 30 minutes in your busy schedule ? It’s okay to break things up. Two 15-minute workouts or three 10-minute workouts can be just as effective.

For most people, aiming for moderate intensity exercise is sufficient to improve your overall health. You should breathe a little heavier than normal, but not be out of breath. Your body should feel warmer as you move, but not overheated or sweating profusely. While everyone is different, don’t assume that training for a marathon is better than training for a 5K or 10K. There’s no need to overdo it.

Health issues ? Get medical clearance first. If you have health concerns such as limited mobility, heart disease, asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure, talk with your doctor before you start to exercise.

Warm up. Warm up with dynamic stretches—active movements that warm and flex the zones musculaires you’ll be using, such as leg kicks, walking lunges, or arm swings—and by doing a slower, easier version of the upcoming exercise. For example, if you’re going to run, warm up by walking. Or if you’re lifting weights, begin with a few light reps.

Drink plenty of water. Your body performs best when it’s properly hydrated. Failing to drink enough water when you are exerting yourself over a prolonged period of time, especially in hot conditions, can be dangerous.

There’s a reason so many New Year’s resolutions to get in shape crash and burn before February rolls around. And it’s not that you simply don’t have what it takes. Science shows us that there’s a right way to build habits that last. Follow these steps to make exercise one of them.

A goal of exercising for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week may sound good. But how likely are you to follow through ? The more ambitious your goal, the more likely you are to fail, feel bad about it, and give up. It’s better to start with easy exercise goals you know you can achieve. As you meet them, you’ll build self-confidence and momentum. Then you can move on to more challenging goals.

Triggers are one of the confidentiels to success when it comes to forming an exercise habit. In fact, research shows that the most consistent exercisers rely on them. Triggers are simply reminders—a time of day, place, or cue—that kick off an automatic reaction. They put your routine on autopilot, so there’s nothing to think about or decide on. The alarm clock goes off and you’re out the door for your walk. You leave work for the day and head straight to the gym. You spot your sneakers addict right by the bed and you’re up and course. Find ways to build them into your day to make exercise a no-brainer.

People who exercise regularly tend to do so because of the rewards it brings to their lives, such as more energy, better sleep, and a greater sense of well-being. However, these tend to be long-term rewards. When you’re starting an exercise program, it’s important to give yourself immediate rewards when you successfully complete a workout or reach a new fitness goal. Choose something you look forward to, but don’t allow yourself to do until after exercise. It can be something as simple as having a hot bath or a favorite cup of coffee.

If your workout is unpleasant or makes you feel clumsy or inept, you’re unlikely to stick with it. Don’t choose activities like course or lifting weights at the gym just because you think that’s what you should do. Instead, pick activities that fit your lifestyle, abilities, and taste.

Activity-based video games such as those from Wii and Kinect can be a fun way to start moving. So-called “exergames” that are played standing up and moving around—simulating dancing, skateboarding, soccer, bowling, or tennis, for example—can burn at least as many calories as walking on a treadmill; some substantially more. Once you build up your confidence, try getting away from the TV screen and playing the real thing outside. Or use a smartphone app to keep your workouts fun and interesting—some immerse you in interactive stories to keep you motivated, such as running from hordes of zombies !

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