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8 simple ways to keep your heart fit

September 29, 2013 11:20 IST

8 simple ways to keep your heart fit

Dr Amar Singhal

On the occasion of World Heart Day, Dr Amar Singhal, head of department, cardiology, of Delhi-based Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, lists out a simple yet heart-healthy regimen.

In India, heart ailments have replaced communicable diseases as the biggest killer. There is virtually an epidemic of heart diseases in the country. It has been estimated that almost 25-30 per cent of urban population and 10-12 per cent of the rural population suffers from high blood pressure and heart attacks. Blame it all on a body’s inactivity, which is one of the major risk factors for heart diseases. However, exercise helps improve heart health, and can even reverse some heart disease risk factors.

Like all muscles, the heart becomes stronger as a result of exercise, so it can pump more blood through the body with every beat and continue working at maximum level, if needed, with less strain. Also, less effort is needed to pump blood in those who exercise regularly thus, putting minimal pressure on the heart.

Exercise has a number of effects that benefit the heart and blood circulation. These benefits include improving cholesterol and fat levels, reducing inflammation in the arteries, helping weight loss programmes and helping to keep blood vessels flexible and open. But a heart healthy exercise does not have to involve treadmills or dumbbell workouts; there are dozens of other activities you can do to help keep the heart rate up. Whether it is a structured exercise programme or just part of a daily routine, all physical activities add up. It is easy to follow these exercise tips at home, at work, and at play to increase the amount of physical activity in your life:

  • Cardiovascular exercises strengthen your heart and lungs and improve the body's ability to use oxygen. Meanwhile, aerobic exercise has the most benefits for your heart as over the time it can help stabilise the heart rate and blood pressure and improve breathing. Doing aerobic exercises for 30 minutes in a day is beneficial.
  • Any moderate-intensity exercise like jogging, pilates and yoga is good for keeping the heart rate pumped up.
  • Swimming laps or even participating in water fitness classes will not only raise the heart rate and improve heart health but will also help in strengthening the muscles.
  • If you cannot dedicate a bulk time for exercise, then shorter but more frequent periods of time, like 5-10 minutes several times in a day need to be fitted in. One should try taking the stairs and include brisk walks in moderate intensity level in their daily regime.
  • Isometric exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups should be avoided as they involve straining muscles against other muscles or an immovable object.
  • For adults ageing 65 or above with chronic conditions or limited mobility, same amount of exercise as younger people is recommended. However, the activities can be less intense
  • Exercising outdoors when it is too cold, hot, or humid should be avoided. High humidity may cause one to tire more quickly. Extreme temperatures can interfere with circulation, make breathing difficult, and cause chest pain. One should preferably opt for indoor physical activities.
  • If your exercise programme gets interrupted for more than a few days due to any reason, it should be made sure to ease back into the routine by starting with a reduced level of activity, and gradually increasing it to the revived pace.

Photographs: Paul Gilham/Getty Images