The importance of exercise for CVRM

Have you taken your daily dosage of exercise?

People who are active daily live longer and have a greater sense of well-being. Regular activity can prevent or treat diabetes, hypertension and heart disease and may play a role in preventing certain cancers. Furthermore, regular physical activity at the correct intensity can help maintain a healthy weight, lower blood glucose levels, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and reduce the amount of chronic medications you have to take. In addition, it can strengthen your bones and improve your sleep.

Despite all these (and many more) health benefits of physical activity, it is of great concern that worldwide, people are doing less of it. Some sobering stats reveal that physical inactivity is responsible for 9 % of premature deaths worldwide, yet 31 % of adults worldwide (50 % of South Africans) are physically inactive. Interestingly, physical activity levels are declining not only in wealthy countries, but also in low and middle-income countries too.

So, what is to be blamed for this increase in our sedentary lifestyles?

Increasing urbanisation, deskbound jobs, technology and modern living have removed many regular forms of physical activity from our daily lives. Cars have replaced walking and cycling, lifts and escalators have replaced stairs, automatic dishwashing machines have replaced washing the dishes by hand, computers and sophisticated production lines have replaced manual labour and TV and computer games have replaced fun physical activities for both children and adults.

It’s clear that this decline in physical activity is a key contributor to the global obesity epidemic, and in turn, to rising rates of chronic disease (type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers). But it is not obesity that we should really be worried about; it is the lack of physical activity. We have been so worried (or comfortable with) getting fat that we have forgotten to get fit!

How much exercise is necessary to improve one’s health?

In the Harvard study and the Cooper Clinic aerobic study, two landmark studies on the benefits of an active lifestyle versus a sedentary lifestyle, it was recommended that people participate in some form of activity for 30-60 minutes each day. In fact, being active on a daily basis was seen in the same light as taking your daily medication for a chronic condition. If you missed your daily dose of activity, it was as if you missed your diabetes or blood pressure pill for the day.

Exercise improves blood glucose control in Diabetes

Numerous theories exist as to how exercise may improve blood glucose control, however the most convincing theory is muscle and liver glycogen (stored glucose) usage and replenishment during and following exercise. During exercise, the body will utilize blood glucose, liver, and muscle glycogen as an energy source. Following exercise, the liver and muscle cells draw glucose out of the blood( where it is potentially dangerous when high) and draw it into the muscle and liver where it is used for energy or stored. This process effectively treats ones diabetes and can lower blood glucose levels for up to 48 hours.

Exercise can lower your blood pressure

Your risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) increases with age, but getting some exercise can make a big difference. And if your blood pressure is already high, exercise can help you control it.

Regular physical activity makes your heart stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. If your heart can work more efficiently to pump blood around the body, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure. Becoming more active can lower your systolic blood pressure — the top number in a blood pressure reading — by an average of 4 to 9 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg).

If your blood pressure is at a desirable level — less than 120/80 mm Hg — exercise can help prevent it from rising as you age. Physical activity not only helps control high blood pressure, it also helps you manage your weight, strengthen your heart and lower your stress level. A healthy weight, a strong heart and general emotional health are all good for your blood pressure

.But to keep your blood pressure low, you need to keep exercising on a regular basis. It takes about one to three months for regular exercise to have an impact on your blood pressure. The benefits last only as long as you continue to exercise.

Regular exercise can improve your response to stress

Stress is one of the silent risk factors that

can have a significant, adverse effect on diabetes control, blood pressure and
raise ones risk for heart disease and stroke.

Apart from other healthy ways to prevent, deal
with, reframe or avoid stress, Mayo Clinic research shows us that exercise in
almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your
feel-good hormones and distract you from wallowing in daily worries.

Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, it can relax you, and it
can lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety.

So, what’s the dose doc?

Making the decision to be active, may be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. The choice is yours. Even moderately intense physical activity, such as brisk walking, is beneficial when done regularly.

When it comes to physical activity, just get moving. Don’t be afraid to get active, if you have not been active for quite some time or if you are beginning a new activity or exercise programme, take it gradually. It’s best to start slowly with something you enjoy, like taking walks or riding a bicycle. Scientific evidence strongly shows that physical activity is safe for almost everyone. Moreover, the health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks.

Exercise does not have to be at a high intensity to be beneficial. Low or moderate intensity exercise like walking, gardening, swimming for at least 20-30 minutes a day will do the trick. Just get moving, set reachable targets and once you get going, you will see and feel the benefits

.For overall health benefits to the heart, lungs and circulation, get regular aerobic activity using the following guidelines:

  • For most healthy people, get the equivalent of at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking.
  • You can break up your weekly physical activity goal however you like. An easy plan to remember is 30 minutes a day on at least five days a week. But shorter sessions count, too.
  • Physical activity should be spread throughout the week.
  • Include flexibility and stretching exercises.
  • Include muscle-strengthening activity at least two days each week.

No excuses! Focus!

By Andrew Heilbrunn. Biokineticist, CDE Central Office, Houghton, Johannesburg

  • Mayo Clinic staff. 2019. Exercise: A drug-free approach to lowering high blood pressure. Jan. 09, 2019.
  • American Heart Association. 2016. Getting Active to Control High Blood Pressure. American Heart Association. Oct 31, 2016,
  • Heilbrunn AG. The Benefits of Exercising as a Family. Living with Diabetes. Diabetes Lifestyle 2019. Biokinetics Department, Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology, Houghton Johannesburg.
  • Heilbrunn AG. Have you taken your daily dosage of exercise? Living with Diabetes. Diabetes Lifestyle 2018. Biokinetics Department, Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology, Houghton Johannesburg.
  • Heilbrunn AG. Take a chill-pill! De-stressing your life with exercise. Living with Diabetes. Diabetes Lifestyle 2017. Biokinetics Department, Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology, Houghton.
01 September 2020

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