Effective Cardiovascular Exercise: Tips to Boost Heart Health

Effective Cardiovascular Exercise: Tips to Boost Heart Health

Frequently, my patients inquire about exercise and its impact on cardiovascular health. The truth is, there’s considerable debate about what type of exercise is “the best,” but the specific choice doesn’t carry excessive importance. For the majority of the patients I see, many of whom start from a relatively sedentary lifestyle, the most effective exercise program is one they’re willing and capable of maintaining. The crucial factor is getting started with some physical activity, after which progress can be made.

For those who have been relatively inactive, I often recommend starting with walking. It doesn’t require specialized training, equipment, or even a gym membership. The benefits of walking are often underestimated. Engaging in moderate to brisk walking for 30-45 minutes a few times a week can lead to weight loss and improvements in blood pressure and blood sugar. If you’re unable to walk for that duration, it’s essential to begin with the amount you can handle and gradually increase it. Even a few minutes are a solid starting point, as any amount of exercise is superior to none. As you enhance your stamina and exercise capacity, it can lead to a self-reinforcing positive cycle. While you may not reach peak fitness this way, even a modest increase in activity and weight loss can significantly impact your overall health.

Several of my patients face joint problems such as issues with knees, hips, or the back, making walking or running challenging. For individuals dealing with such concerns, swimming is an excellent option since it reduces the strain on these joints. To clarify, proper swimming, not just aimless floating, is essential. However, you can swim at your own pace, rest when necessary, and then continue.

For most individuals, starting with low-intensity exercise and gradually increasing it as they feel comfortable is perfectly acceptable. If you have a history of significant cardiac issues, it might be prudent to discuss this with a cardiologist and, in some cases, have a medically supervised stress test before initiating an exercise program. If you’re interested in discussing this with a cardiologist, we’re here to help.

Dr. George Leef is a general cardiologist practicing in Palm Beach County, FL. He completed his residency training in Internal Medicine at Stanford in 2018 and his fellowship in Cardiovascular Medicine at Johns Hopkins in 2021.