Exercising for heart health

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Whether it’s maintaining your health or preventing complications from arising, good heart health is paramount. In this article we’re going to discuss the well-established link between physical activity and your heart.

10 minutes a day

Research has shown that as little as 10 minutes of physical activity per day can help to improve your overall health. That could be as simple as spending 10 minutes in the garden, or parking five minutes away from the shops and walking back and forth. Exercise can help to reduce your risk of developing heart disease by a third! Further to this, exercise is one of the pillars of heart disease management and a significant part of cardiac rehabilitation. Clearly the benefits of exercise lie not only in the management of our heart health, but also in significantly reducing the risk of developing any heart-related complications.

What exactly should we be doing?

The best form of exercise to improve heart health is aerobic exercise, commonly referred to as ‘cardio’. Aerobic exercise is physical activity that relies on your cardiovascular system (heart, lungs, blood vessels) to generate and use oxygen for energy. It results in an increase in your heart rate, rate of breathing, sweating, and overall blood flow. Some examples of aerobic exercise include walking, running, rowing, cycling and swimming. Another common type of aerobic exercise is High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT for short. HIIT is a very effective form of exercise to improve heart function, but may not be suitable for everyone. If you’re unsure if HIIT is suitable for you, consult with your GP or an Accredited Exercise Physiologist.

Aerobic exercise and your heart

Structured aerobic exercise can help improve your resting heart rate and blood pressure. It can also reduce the overall load on your heart and blood vessels to pump blood through the body. It helps improve the uptake of oxygen and other important sources of energy, vitamins, and minerals to our muscles, organs and brain. This will improve your overall health and wellbeing.

The talk/sing test

The National Physical Activity Guidelines (NPAG) suggest 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise for 150-300 minutes, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise per week. To determine what intensity you are exercising at try the talk/sing test. If you can maintain a conversation or sing, you’re likely sitting at a low to moderate intensity. If you can’t talk or sing at all, you’re likely exercising at a vigorous intensity.

Easy ways to increase activity for heart health

But if structured exercise isn’t quite for you, then don’t worry! Another one of the NPAGs suggests the general principle of reducing time spent in prolonged sitting, and being generally active every day. Start to recognise those sedentary periods and minimise them as best as you can. Or simply go out of your way to be more active throughout your day, you can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease. Try getting up from your chair every 30 minutes and having a light stretch. Or walk to the shops instead of driving, or get off the bus at an earlier stop and walk the remainder.

If you’re looking to start exercising or are after some new ideas, The Heart Foundation has many great resources including information on walking groups and personalised walking plans to get the ball rolling. You can find more here https://walking.heartfoundation.org.au/.


If this article has raised any questions or concerns, or you’d like more information on the role of physical activity in heart health and diabetes management, give us a call on 1800 637 700 to speak with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist.


Jonathin Fermanis, AEP

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