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Aerobics still tops to help heart

February 16, 2004|by Christine L. Moats

Regular exercise offers many benefits, including the prevention of heart disease. Studies show that people who are physically fit through regular exercise reduce their risk of heart attack by 50 percent. Like other muscles in our bodies, the heart becomes stronger and more efficient through exercise.

According to Pam Peitz, manager of Washington County Hospital's Cardiac Rehab and Congestive Heart Failure programs, this results in a lower blood pressure and a lower resting heart rate. Having a high level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is the "good" cholesterol, also has been shown to protect against heart attack. Exercising regularly has been found to help increase the HDL level.

Recent research indicates that regular exercise actually helps the blood vessels themselves stay healthier by limiting damage to the walls of the arteries and making it easier for the blood vessels to dilate, which improves blood flow to the heart. For those people trying to lose weight, exercise greatly increases the success of a weight-loss program due to burning extra calories. Physical activity also is good for our mental health; it has been shown to significantly help individuals suffering from depression.

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All types of exercise are beneficial, but aerobic exercise - continuous activity without stopping for 20 to 40 minutes - is the most beneficial to the heart. This includes activities such as brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming, ballroom dancing and even types of yard work such as raking. The surgeon general recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.

- Source: "Take a Load Off Your Heart," by Joseph C. Piscatella, 2003




Christine L. Moats is a wellness coordinator at Washington County Hospital.

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