The benefits that exercise has for physical and mental health are numerous. Countless studies have shown physical activity to be a top component in preventing and managing diseases and promoting a longer, healthier life. Let’s explore five heart-healthy reasons to make exercise a habit today.

Regulate Blood Pressure

Exercise causes blood vessels to dilate, which means they open wider and allow better circulation. Because of this the heart does not have to work as hard thereby more efficiently getting blood to the body. Less stress on the arteries means lower blood pressure in return (Mayo Clinic). Since bouts of exercise directly affect heart function, consistent physical activity is necessary for keeping blood pressure under control long-term.

Boost Good Cholesterol

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is considered the “good” cholesterol, and it is an important part of heart health. According to the CDC, HDL “absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver. The liver then flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL cholesterol can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.” Regular exercise is one of the best ways to boost your artery-sweeping good cholesterol numbers.

Keep Blood Sugar Numbers in Check

Diabetes is a large risk factor for developing heart disease. Regular physical activity can keep blood sugar numbers in a safe zone by increasing insulin sensitivity and using glucose for energy. Exercise has an immediate effect on blood sugar, which is why it is important for those who are diabetic or pre-diabetic to monitor their numbers before and after exercise. Talk with your doctor about safely incorporating exercise so you can avoid the risk of hypoglycemia. The American Diabetes Association is also a great resource for monitoring and managing low blood sugar with exercise. While physical activity will directly help lower blood sugar, a regular habit of exercise will further assist in lowering A1C levels.

Manage Stress

Physical exercise helps to reduce the body’s production of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Studies have shown that increased levels of stress hormones can raise blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. High levels of any of these raise the risk for heart disease. Exercise also helps to produce more “feel good” hormones like endorphins. Test out how exercise impacts your stress levels during your next session. Before beginning your workout, rate your stress levels on a scale of 1-10. Afterward, rate your stress levels again. Chances are you’ll notice a lower stress level, or at the very least, you had a few moments where you were focusing on something other than the stressor itself.

Lower Inflammation

Chronic inflammation in the body can lead to issues such as high blood pressure and blood sugar, and even impaired immune response. Each of these put extra stress on the heart and increase the risk for heart disease. A study published by Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that an exercise session as short as 20 minutes on the treadmill at a moderate intensity helped promote an anti-inflammatory response in the body.

Let your heart health be the motivation you need to keep exercise a priority in your life.

Always consult with your physician before starting a new exercise program.

Continue reading February 2022 Newsletter: Don’t Stress Out Your Heart

Written by BWS Lead Health Coach- Kelly Schlather, BS, ASCM – CEP