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Exercise & Cardiovascular Health

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

The cardiovascular system consists of the heart, blood, and blood vessels and functions to transport nutrients and oxygen throughout the body. Damage to this system can cause health issues- the most common of which are high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

Cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and glucose control all contribute to your cardiovascular health. Exercise has a positive effect on all of these factors. Specifically, exercise contributes to:

  • Improved vascular function

  • Increased HDL (good cholesterol)

  • Lower LDL (bad cholesterol)

  • Lower total cholesterol

How much physical activity is recommended to help prevent cardiovascular disease?

For adults, at least 150-300 minutes of moderate OR 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise per week and muscle strengthening 2 days per week is the recommended dose to help prevent cardiovascular disease.

Moderate intensity exercise is defined as:

  • Walking at a pace of 100 steps per minute. This is about the pace of walking a mile in 20 minutes

  • Exercising at 20-30 beats per minute over your resting heart rate

  • Exercising at an intensity where you are breathing somewhat hard, able to talk but not sing

Vigorous intensity exercise is defined as:

  • Exercising at >30 beats per minute over your resting heart rate

  • Exercising at an intensity where you are breathing hard enough where it is difficult to talk

If walking is your primary form of exercise, aim for at least 8,000 steps per day as this number is associated with a lower risk for cardiovascular disease.

What else can I do other than exercising to help with my cardiovascular health?

Massage, yoga, breathing and relaxation techniques may help reduce high blood pressure.

Smoking and having a high “hip to waist ratio” are modifiable risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease.

You can check your “hip to waist ratio” by using a tape measure and measuring the diameter of your waist just under the lowest rib and dividing that number by the measurement of your hips at the widest portion of your buttock.

The risk level based on that number is:

  • Low risk: women <0.8, men <0.95

  • Moderate risk: women 0.81-0.85, men 0.96-1

  • High risk: women >0.85, men >1

How can my physio help with this?

We are able to take your blood pressure and heart rate in the clinic. If either of these seem abnormal, we will advise you to speak with your GP.

If you need to increase your physical activity to meet the recommendations discussed earlier, but are not sure how to achieve this, your physio can help guide you!

Our goal is always to help you perform your normal tasks and exercises to the best of your ability. Most often our patients are limited by pain, but we can also help those who may be limited in physical activity by lack of strength, endurance, or other physical factors. Our home exercise programs are always tailored to the individual to help you meet your personal goals.

By Lee Schober

August 2022

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