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We all know that physical exercise is a good thing, especially when paired with a balanced diet. However, it’s also true that different sports can impact the body and heart in different ways. 

As you get older, you’ll probably realise this and may have already adjusted your approach to exercise accordingly. If not, here are a few notes on how different sports can impact your heart health. 

Why do different sports affect the heart differently?

It is perhaps less obvious how different sports affect the heart compared to how they impact your body in general, such as your joints and muscles (both positively and negatively).

The most important concept to think about is intensity. It is the intensity of a sport that is found to have the greatest impact on the way your heart responds as it is relied on to pump blood and oxygen around the body more rigorously.

Some sports may activate your heart more gently over a prolonged period of time, while others will put a greater demand on your heart to help you achieve a difficult activity or task.

Aerobic exercises

The best type of activity to keep your heart healthy is aerobic activity, which is any repetitive, rhythmic movement that involves large muscle groups such as the legs, shoulders and arms.

When you do an aerobic activity, your body needs more oxygen and therefore your heart and lungs have to work harder. This in turn makes the heart more efficient. 

Aerobic exercise also improves circulation and stamina, which results in lowered blood pressure and heart rate. This is great for the body and overtime will also increase your overall aerobic fitness, helping you to perform physical tasks in your daily life more easily and perhaps contributing to greater fitness gains. 

It is also known that aerobic exercise reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and helps to manage your blood glucose levels. 

A simple session of 30 minutes of intense aerobic exercise performed at least five days a week can have a huge impact on your heart health. And when doctors recommend that you “get the heart pumping” with exercise each week, this is the kind of exercise they’re usually talking about. 

Simple aerobic exercise to perform include: 

  • Brisk walking
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Tennis 
  • Squash
  • Skipping 

Resistance training (strength work)

Resistance training is said to complement the effects of cardiovascular work when it comes to improving overall fitness and supporting heart health. 

Because strength training increases lean muscle mass, it gives your cardiovascular system more places to send the blood being pumped. Greater muscular endurance also makes performing rigorous exercise for longer periods of time far easier, which also results in less pressure on your arteries and the reduced likelihood of heart-related problems.. 

While jumping straight into a heavy set of weights without  warming up can put a great deal of strain on your heart, it is perfectly healthy for individuals of all ages to engage in light resistance training. Just be careful that you don’t put too much strain on your joints and seek advise if you are not sure of the technique of a particular exercise.

Simple resistance training exercises to perform include:

  • Working out with free weights
  • Weight machines
  • Resistance bands
  • Bodyweight exercises (push-ups, squats and chin-ups)

Stretching, flexibility and balance exercises

Stretching alone doesn’t necessarily contribute to heart health, but flexibility workouts like yoga or pilates are amazing for the body. As well as working up a sweat in more intense sessions, you can support the musculoskeletal system which makes other activities and sports much easier, making aerobic exercise and resistance training more effective and therefore more beneficial for the heart. 

Also, flexibility and balance exercises help maintain stability and prevent falls in older age, which can lead to injuries that would limit other kinds of exercise.

Simple stretching and flexibility exercises include:

  • Yoga
  • Pilates 
  • Barre 
  • Stretching at home

Learn how healthy your heart is

If you are looking to learn more about your heart health and ways of improving it as well as reducing risk factors that can lead to heart disease in the future, we’re always happy to hear from you. 

We offer various treatments and tests like the echocardiogram test in Liverpool, as well as CT Calcium Score, CT Coronary Angiogram, Echocardiogram, Electrocardiogram (ECG), Kardia and Point of Care Blood Tests. Our services are aimed at providing a personalised, affordable option, with the high standards of a private hospital but without the high rates. Contact us today to book your echocardiogram test in Liverpool, Cheshire or other parts of Northwest England.