The Baby Boomer Heart: Healing Fitness
When it comes to protecting your heart, fitness plays a key role.
How Exercise Helps Your Heart
There are number of obvious heart-healthy benefits to exercise. Usually you
will lose weight, or maintain a lower weight. You'll also usually lower blood
pressure and cholesterol. But experts say exercise directly affects the heart
by keeping blood vessels strong and healthy. Exercise directly improves the
blood vessels' ability to dilate and increase blood flow, says Glassberg. In
addition, she says, regular workouts offer these heart-healthy benefits:
Anticlotting and anti inflammatory effects that lower your risk of a heart
- Reducing heart rate and blood pressure, which reduces demand on the
- If you already have heart disease, exercise can help normalize your heart
rhythm as well as helping your body expand smaller vessels to help keep blood
flowing around an area that is clogged.
"Exercise is the single best prescription you can give yourself -- there
is no prescription I can write that will promise a 40% reduction in events of
death -- but regular exercise can do that," says Glassberg.
Cardiologist Stephen Siegel, MD, agrees: "If you want to age
successfully, if you want to be one of those vigorous older folks that you look
at and say 'wow' -- then exercise is going to get you there because it impacts
not only your heart health, but your total health," he says. Siegel is an
associate clinical professor at New York University Medical Center in New York
The Simple Way to Fitness
If you think you need a gym membership to get the heart-health benefits of
exercise, nothing could be farther from the truth.
"The truth is that the greatest decrease in [heart disease] occurs for
those who just take themselves out of the sedentary category with simple
movement. In fact, just going from sedentary to moderately active gives you the
greatest reduction in your risks," says Glassberg.
Indeed, Redberg says you don't have to do any type of formal routine to reap
"You don't have to join a gym, buy a treadmill, or wear a heart monitor
and count your heart beats," she says. "You just have to move your body
with some regularity at a moderate intensity: a brisk walk, gardening, cycling,
walking up steps. It all counts towards protecting your heart."
In a six-month study of sedentary baby boomers published in Medicine and
Science in Sports and Exercise researchers found that a lifestyle-based
physical activity program worked just as well as a rigorous exercise program
when it came to burning calories and increasing cardio respiratory fitness.
People who were previously inactive showed the most benefits.