We know that exercise is important. In fact, we've heard health experts say for years how important it is to just get up and move. But now, a new study suggests that movement may have to be a little more intense if you want to help your heart.
Getting up and getting going is the first step. But now you may need to up the ante on that 30 minutes of cardio five times a week. Researchers in Denmark followed 10,000 patients age 21 to 98 for 10 years. "They tried to determine if the type of activity, whether duration of activity versus intensity of activity, made a difference in the development of what's called metabolic syndrome," said Mercy Medical Center Cardiologist Dr. Mick Hurley. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar. It increases your risk of diabetes, blood clots and heart disease.
What the researchers found is that doing exercise is important, but maybe not as important as the effort you put in. They determined you have to break a sweat to help your heart. "Intense activity for 30 minutes at a time, where your respiratory rate increases and you start perspiring. It was found that type of activity has a benefit," said Dr. Hurley. It can reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome by 50%. Fast walking and jogging for 30 minutes showed the most benefit in the study, while a casual stroll for an hour made no difference in risk level. That's why Dr. Mick Hurley says it's so important to break a sweat. "That is probably more important than heart rate when it comes to conditioning," said Dr. Hurley. That's true even for those who are well-conditioned, and may take a harder workout for a longer period of time to feel the effect. "You go by your perceived exertion. Go to the level that you can talk but maybe not sing," said Dr. Hurley.
Now, if you've never exercised, or haven't for some time, start slow and work your way up. Just make sure you get a little perspiration going. And it's always good to talk to your doctor before you start an exercise regimen. Also, don't push yourself too far, too fast. Signs that you've done that include shortness of breath and tightness in the chest. If you experience those, see a doctor.
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