Cardio Respiratory Health

We all know that exercise improves our cardio respiratory health, and there is lots of evidence to show exactly how it benefits specific conditions.

The more active you are the less likely you are to develop problems with your heart and respiratory system. Depending on how active you are you can reduce your risk of dying from cardio respiratory problems by 35%.

Exercise works by :

  • improving the health of your heart
  • decreasing harmful cholesterol
  • lowering blood pressure
  • improving your blood and the way it moves around your body
  • improving the way your body reacts to insulin.

There is more information on how being active helps improve cardio vascular health on the British Heart Foundation website

Ischaemic heart disease

Ischaemic heart is the most common cause of death in western countries. A poor lifestyle of  inactivity, eating food that has a lot of  sugar and fat and smoking can affect your arteries and result in them carrying less blood. This reduced blood flow reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the heart and may cause a heart attack.

You can reduce your risk of developing the condition by being active – the more active you are the lower the risk.

As you exercise your heart becomes stronger, your blood vessels dilate so they carry more blood. Your blood moves more easily through your body and harmful cholesterol is reduced.

If you have heart disease you maybe offered a cardiac rehabilitation program by your doctor, it is really important that you take the opportunity up. Over half of heart patients don’t and they are putting their lives at risk.

Developing a regular exercise program will be very beneficial to your health and will reduce your risk of dying by up to 30% and your chance of being readmitted to hospital by a staggering 56%.

NICE guidelines state that patients should:

  • be offered exercise programs
  • be advised to take regular physical activity
  • be physically active for 20-30 minutes a day to a level that starts to make them breathless.

    What type of exercise is right

    You should aim to do some aerobic exercise, resistance or strength building and flexibility training.

    Aerobic exercise includes walking, Nordic walking, cycling, rowing, swimming and circuit classes. You could also try something like walking football.

    If you have heart disease you should talk to a professional before starting any new  resistance or flexibility training.  It is advisable to get advice from someone such as a qualified Exercise on Referral professional, or a Cardiac Rehabilitation professional.

    There are lots of different types of exercise to try, the best advice is to find something that you enjoy, and try something different if you start to get bored. You may be offered a specialised program by your doctor which is a great way to get started.

Heart failure

If your heart is weak because you have heart disease you may find that fluid starts to build up in your legs or ankles. This is called heart failure. Your doctor will need to treat you to stabilise your condition before you start to do any exercise.  When your condition is stable you can start being more active, based on your doctor’s advice, and it will improve your quality of life.

Your doctor is likely to offer you a supervised, group exercise-based rehabilitation program, you should go!

Research has shown that people who follow exercise regimes are less likely to be readmitted to hospital, have improved quality of life and there is new research showing a trend towards living longer.

What type of exercise is right

You are likely to be offered a place on an exercise program, or given advice on what exercise to do by your doctor. You should take this advice.

Walking is great way to get started. A short walk each day will help improve your circulation, as your fitness improves you will be able to go a bit further each day.

Take advice from a professional before staring any new activity,  you should aim to do some aerobic activity and some resistance and flexibility training each week.

Aerobic exercise includes walking, Nordic walking, cycling, rowing, swimming and circuit classes.

Resistance exercise includes any activity that works your muscles – this includes carrying shopping bags and simple sitting to standing exercises. As you feel more confident you can try using weights, resistance machines, squats, wall presses or press ups. Yoga also helps build up your muscles, it helps with flexibility too.

Flexibility and balance are also important. Any exercise that improves mobility or involves stretching or balancing is helpful. Tai Chi, yoga, dance and even playing bowls are good examples.There are lots of different types of exercise to try, the best advice is to find something that you enjoy, and try something different if you start to get bored. You could try a specialised program from a qualified Exercise on Referral professional.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is very common. Around 30% of people in England have it and it is dangerous. It greatly increases your risk of having a stroke or a heart attack. Lots of people don’t realise they have high blood pressure, the only way to find out is to have your blood pressure checked. Government advice is to have it checked every 5 years.

If you are inactive, that is if you don’t take regular exercise, you increase your risk of developing high blood pressure by between 30-50% – that’s a lot!

Exercise can help prevent high blood pressure. If you do have high blood pressure physical activity can really help. Regular daily activity can be as effective in reducing blood pressure as conventional medicines. Physical activity lowers blood pressure for a period of around 4-10 hours but the effect can last as long as 22 hours so the tip here is to make sure you exercise every day.

There is strong evidence that regular physical activity will help you live longer if you have high blood pressure.

If your blood pressure is very high your doctor is likely to prescribe medicines to lower it before you start regular physical activity.

What kind of exercise is best?

Moderate intensity aerobic fitness training is best, that’s the kind that gets you out of breath. Other kinds of activity are also good. As with many conditions you can start small though, start by short regular walks then increase the amount of time you spend walking. As your fitness improves you can then move on to other kinds of exercise.

If your blood pressure isn’t too high it is possible to take control and get it back down by being more active without you having to take any medication. Read our case study to see how Paul managed it.

You should aim to do some aerobic exercise every day, and add in resistance or strength building and flexibility training.

Aerobic exercise includes walking, Nordic walking, cycling, rowing, swimming and circuit classes. You could also try something like walking football.

For resistance and flexibility training it is advisable to get advice from someone such as a qualified Exercise on Referral professional, or a Cardiac Rehabilitation professional.
There are lots of different types of exercise to try, the best advice is to find something that you enjoy, and try something different if you start to get bored.

High cholesterol and other fats in the blood

High cholesterol or high levels of other fats in your blood put you at risk of blocked arteries, heart attack or stroke.

There are two types of cholesterol, LDL or ‘bad cholesterol’ and HDL or ‘good cholesterol’. Healthy people have low levels of LDL and higher levels of HDL.

Physical activity can reduce the ‘bad cholesterol’ or LDL levels in your blood and increase the protective HDL or ‘good cholesterol’.

You need to work quite hard though, regular daily moderate or high intensity exercise has the most effect. You will need to get out of breath and a bit hot and sweaty to make a difference.

What type of exercise is right

Moderate intensity aerobic activity is the most beneficial. That is something such as walking Nordic walking, cycling, rowing, swimming and circuit classes. Playing sport is also good, but talk to your doctor first. You could try something like walking football.

You can start small, if you haven’t done much exercise in the past start with a gentle walk each day, and over time increase how far you walk and how fast you walk. As your fitness improves you can try other activities.

It is best to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise plan, you may be offered help with a specific program.

Include some resistance exercise, that includes any activity that works your muscles. Activities such as carrying shopping bags and simple sitting to standing exercises count. As you feel more confident you can try using weights, resistance machines, squats, wall presses or press ups. Yoga also helps build up your muscles, it helps with flexibility too.

Flexibility and balance are also important. Any exercise that improves mobility or involves stretching or balancing is good. Tai Chi, yoga, dance and even playing bowls are good examples.

There are lots of different types of exercise to try, the best advice is to find something that you enjoy, and try something different if you start to get bored. You could try a specialised program from a qualified Exercise on Referral professional.

 

Peripheral arterial disease

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a common condition in which a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries restricts blood supply to leg muscles. It is also known as peripheral vascular disease (PVD).

Walking is really important if you have peripheral arterial disease. This is a case of no-pain-no-gain though. Walking is painful when you have PAD – advice is to walk to the point where it really hurts. The more times you push yourself to walk to the point of real pain the more you will build up your ability to walk and you’ll find that you will be able to walk further over time. If you have PAD there is a risk that you will have other cardiovascular problems too so it really is important to keep walking.

If you have PAD your doctor is likely to offer you an exercise program and you really should take up the offer.

What type of exercise is right

Walking is the best form of exercise for people with PAD. You can start small, with a short walk each day to the point where the pain is too much. Over time you will find that you can walk further and further.

Chronic kidney disease

Around 8% of the population in the UK suffer from kidney disease. Most of them don’t go on to suffer kidney failure. If you have kidney disease the most likely thing to kill you is heart disease. So exercise is really, really important.

People with kidney disease are often very inactive. Being more active reduces your risk of dying early from heart disease. In addition many patients suffer muscle wasting, this is improved by strength building exercise which results in increased muscle size and a better quality of life.

What type of exercise is right

If you have chronic kidney disease you should start to include physical activity into your everyday life, gradually increasing how much you do and how long for. The main thing is to get into the habit of being more active, any activity is good.

Try going for a short walk every day, and build in as much activity into your day as you can. You might find setting yourself small goals is helpful, such as using a pedometer and setting yourself a target to walk a set number of steps or reminding yourself to not sit still for too long. Try standing up while on the phone or going for a walk around when the TV commercials come on.

Over time your fitness will start to improve and you can aim for moderate intensity activity, brisk walking, cycling or swimming are perfect. You should aim to do some aerobic exercise, resistance or strength building and flexibility training.

Aerobic exercise could include any prolonged, rhythmic activity for example walking, Nordic walking, cycling, rowing, swimming and circuit classes. You could also try something like walking football.

There are lots of different types of exercise to try, the best advice is to find something that you enjoy, and try something different if you start to get bored. You could try a specialised program from a qualified Exercise on Referral professional.

Stroke

Regular physical activity helps prevents strokes. The risk of a stroke is increased by high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol, all of which benefit from regular exercise so it goes without saying that if you are active you will have a lower risk of a stroke. You can lower your risk by between 20–35% depending on how much exercise you do.

There is a huge variation in how affected people who have had strokes are but it is important to keep active. Stroke patients are likely to be offered individual fitness training or muscle strengthening exercise programs.

These can help improve quality of life as well as helping patients recover their self-confidence.

What type of exercise will help?

If you have muscle weakness you may be advised to do strength building exercises. These may include exercises you can do at home or during supervised sessions.

Your physiotherapist may start you on a program of additional exercises. If you are well enough to attend standard exercise classes your physio will give you the information you need to pass on to your instructor so they can tailor exercises to suit your needs.

Walking is very beneficial after a stroke to help you regain mobility. If you need support at first you may be offered supervised treadmill sessions.