If you are overweight or obese, research has shown that you are more likely to develop coronary heart disease than someone who is a healthy weight. The good news is that you can adopt lifestyle changes that can make a difference. Eating a healthy diet and regular exercise to lose weight can drastically reduce those health risks.
In this blog, I will be focusing on one simple exercise that you can perform, that will help you to lose weight fast and improve the health of your heart. You won’t need a gym membership and you can start it immediately!
Why is exercise so important?
Keeping even moderately fit with an active lifestyle makes a big difference to your risk of heart disease. In the massive INTERHEART study, regular physical activities accounted for 12 percent of the risk of heart disease [https://www.wikijournalclub.org/wiki/INTERHEART]. The fitter you are, the lower your risk. To put this into context, a study of 5,314 men between the ages of 65 and 92 found that those who were reasonably fit, compared to the least fit, reduced their risk of death by 38 percent. Those participants who were most fit reduced their risk of dying by 61 percent. Those who were unfit and then did something about it, cut their risk of premature death by a third.
If I invented a pill that could drop your blood pressure significantly, lower your risk of having a stroke or heart attack, fight osteoporosis and type II diabetes, help you lose weight and reduce your risk of premature death, would you take it? Of course you would! Who wouldn’t! You can get all these results and more by simply exercising regularly. It is a habit that you need to cultivate.
- Moderate exercise decreases your appetite. A degree of physical activity is necessary for appetite mechanisms to work properly. Those who choose not exercise have exaggerated appetites and hence the pounds gradually creep on. You may often find after a burst of activity, you don’t actually feel like eating.
- Exercise boosts your metabolic rate. According to Professor William McArdle, exercise physiologist at City University, New York, most people can generate metabolic rates that are eight to ten times above their resting value during sustained cycling, running or swimming. This vigorous exercise will also raise metabolic rate for up to 15 hours after exercise.
Your metabolic rate is also related to how quickly the liver breaks down glycogen or fat for fuel. Exercise speeds this process up. Also, if you have eaten more carbohydrates than you need, and the excess is dumped in the liver, exercising helps you to burn this off before you put it into storage as fat.
- Exercise improves insulin sensitivity. Being overweight reduces insulin sensitivity, so the risk of developing diabetes is higher. Exercise increases insulin sensitivity, thereby reducing risk. A 24-year study of nearly 600 men found that increased physical activity was linked to a reduction in the risk of diabetes, regardless of the level of obesity [https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2018/03/exercise-reduces-risk-of-developing-diabetes-study.aspx]
When you exercise, your muscles require glucose. So exercise stimulates the insulin receptors to become more sensitive, reversing insulin resistance. This means that regular exercise helps your blood sugar to become more balanced because insulin starts to work properly.
- Lowers bad cholesterol [LDL] and total cholesterol. High levels of either of those cholesterol can clog up your arteries and contribute to coronary heart disease and strokes. People who exercise can expect their total cholesterol to drop by 24 percent and their LDL to fall by 10 percent, compared to their sedentary levels.
- Raise your good cholesterol [HDL]. Low levels of HDL, which carry cholesterol away from artery walls, are linked to a higher risk of coronary heart disease. Exercise raises HDL levels on an average of six percent.
- Improved endothelial function. When the inner lining of the blood vessel malfunctions, blood vessels constrict and blood pressure rises. Exercise helps the blood vessels produce more nitric oxide, a substance that makes them more elastic and better able to contract and relax efficiently. This results in improved blood flow and a decrease in blood pressure.
- Exercise burns calories, reducing body fat and helps control weight. Obesity puts an extra load on an already overworked heart and greatly contributes to hypertension.
- Help manage stress. Exercise helps burn off stress hormones, release tension and eases anxiety and depression. All of which can raise your blood pressure and put extra burden on the heart.
In short, exercise offers a huge array of benefits. It opens up an undiscovered world of vitality, health and sheer enjoyment.
Types of exercise
You don’t have to join an expensive gym to get to fit. There are many ways you can incorporate more exercise into your everyday life. The most important thing about any exercise regime, is that you should enjoy it. If not, it will become a chore and you won’t maintain it.
To lose weight and improve cardiovascular health, you need to get well acquainted with two kinds of exercise – aerobic and resistance exercises.
Aerobic means oxygen and they are exercises that increase both your intake of oxygen and heart rate. When we carry out aerobic exercise of some kind, our muscle temperature rises, which helps the muscles to relax. This means they receive more oxygen and waste products are removed more efficiently.
The cardiovascular system also benefits from aerobic exercise, helping to protect against heart disease, improving circulation and meaning you are less out of breath. Regular aerobic workouts also carries the added bonuses of increasing your stamina levels, reducing your risk of osteoporosis, increased muscle tissue and reduction in body fat percentage. High ratios of body fat to lean tissue have been linked to heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
Examples of aerobic activity include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, circuit training, rowing tennis, raking the leaves, digging in the garden, mowing the grass or any exercise that is long in duration, steady, continuous and of a certain intensity.
Resistance exercise means working against some kind of force. That force maybe weight, gravity or water. Resistance training builds muscle strength and counters the decaying brought on by aging or taking corticosteroids. It also burns fat, helps prevent osteoporosis, improves balance and when done properly, can decrease the risk of future muscle injury.
Resistance exercise usually involves the use of one or more of the following:-
- Free weights
- Cuff, hand or ankle weights
- The force of gravity [leg lifts and press-ups for example]
- Water – water aerobics
- increasing the degree of incline or difficulty [cycling up-hill for example]
- Elastic bands
Walking – the perfect exercise to perform
I would suggest that the best aerobic exercise to lose weight and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease is walking. Walking is a weight-bearing activity that increases mobility, strength and stamina. Here are additional reasons why a walking plan is core to any exercise/health goal:-
- Walking is safer than jogging because it is gentle on your joints and ligaments. You land on your feet with just a fifth of the force compared to runners.
- Anyone can walk, It is a good option for people who have heart disease, arthritis or are just recovering from heart problems.
- It is inexpensive. A good pair of walking shoes are the only real expenditure needed.
- There is a good chance you will stick with it. Only 25 percent of people who walk for exercise give up, compared to 50-60 percent of people who start other forms of exercise.
- You can choose it anywhere and at anytime.
- It is easy to vary the intensity. To work harder, walk faster or alter the incline.
For most people, walking is the easiest and most convenient aerobic activity. You may surprise yourself at how far you actually walk, after increasing the distance over several weeks.
If you haven’t exercised before, or for a long time, then choose start slowly. Do five or ten minutes of bending, stretching and stepping on the spot before you begin your workout. This will help to increase blood flow to your muscles and helps to avoid damage to ligaments, muscles and tendons. Don’t risk sprains and strains.
It is equally important to ‘cool’ down after exercising. A few gentle, steady marching on the spot until your heart rate returns to its resting level. A few simple stretches can also help too. Exercise is not supposed to hurt. If it does, then please stop. Don’t push yourself beyond your limits, especially not at first. Muscles you have not used for some time may feel a little stiff the day after you begin, but you shouldn’t be in agony, or unable to move.
Here is a walking plan, recommended by the British Heart Foundation [BHF] that you can follow or even adapt, depending on your starting level:-
|Week 1 - 2||10 - 15 minutes walking at normal pace.||2 -3 times per week|
|Week 3 - 4||10 - 15 minutes walking at a brisk pace.||2 - 3 times per week|
|Week 5 - 6||10 - 15 minutes walking at a brisk pace||3 - 4 times per week|
|Week 7 - 8||15 - 20 minutes walking at a brisk pace.||3 - 4 times per week|
|Week 9 and on-going||30 minutes walking at a brisk pace.||5 times per week|
By week 9 of this walking plan, you should be able to walk briskly for 30 minutes, five times a week – your basic fitness target.
By adopting a brisk pace, you will increase your heart rate and that is when you will begin to burn calories. When your heart rate reaches upwards of 100-200 beats per minute [bpm], age dependent, you enter what is known as the fat-burning zone, where fat is used as your primary energy source.
A study by the London School of Economics found that those who engaged in ‘regular brisk walking’ for longer than half an hour, had lower body mass indexes [BMI] and smaller waists, compared to those who did other exercises, such as going to the gym or playing football or rugby.
A word of caution
Walking is an excellent form of exercise for anyone with angina, heart failure or high blood pressure because you can start with just a few minutes gently paced walking. You can then start to work up gradually, until you are walking further and faster. But before you start your exercise regime, it is advisable to consult with your doctor first. Stop exercising if you become really fatigued or severely short of breath and again, discuss these symptoms with your doctor.
As I have discussed in this blog, there are huge benefits to exercise and making it a part of your daily routine. Much attention has been given to walking and the relative ease for people to engage in this activity, if they are not restricted by mobility problems.
I hope this blog has helped you to understand the importance of exercise and how simply walking regularly, can help you to lose weight and improve your general health as well.
Which diet and exercise plans have you been able to adopt, that have helped you to achieve success in losing weight ?
I would appreciate any other comments you would like to make, in relation to what has been written.