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Benefits of exercise for the heart

Benefits of exercise for the heart

The important benefits, the possible risks and the necessary pre-sport check-up.

Cardiovascular diseases are the first cause of death in developed countries, including Greece.

A common feature of these diseases is the existence of advanced atherosclerosis in the form of strictures that prevent normal blood flow.

Factors that have been blamed for the progression of atherosclerosis and the appearance of these diseases are smoking, hyperlipidemia, obesity, hereditary history, hypertension and diabetes mellitus. Also important is the role of sedentary life and lack of exercise which are common characteristics of the western lifestyle.


They concern healthy and sick people and result from the following beneficial effects of exercise.

  • Increases good cholesterol (HDL)
  • Helps in weight loss
  • Reduces insulin resistance
  • It helps to develop collateral traffic
  • It has an antiarrhythmic effect (modifying the autonomic nervous system)
  • It has an antithrombotic effect
  • It improves the body’s physical and mental state (improves sleep, reduces anxiety and depression).

In addition, it prevents the loss of bone and muscle mass and strengthens the peripheral vascular circulation of the limbs.

The type of exercise recommended by the European Society of Cardiology is 30 minutes of aerobic isotonic exercise at least 3 times a week.

Isometric exercise with weight lifting should be avoided in hypertensive patients.

So, walking at least 3 times a week for 20-45 minutes, gently or faster depending on the functional state of the heart is the easiest and most efficient way.

This does not mean that exercise is a panacea. And it should not exceed the measure.

In past decades some heart patients have been victims of Jogging hysteria.

Swimming is a great alternative form of exercise. However, we should pay attention to some signs of heart disease such as dizziness, a transient fainting episode, vomiting or even a simple cramp that may even end up in drowning.

Such symptoms often occur if someone is taking hypotensive or antiarrhythmic drugs. In general, the heart patient should not open to a great depth, avoid diving and in case the water is cold, enter gradually because the very cold water can cause spasm in a coronary artery.

Gentle swimming rests the heart, as the body floating in the water is free of some of the gravity due to buoyancy. This also avoids muscle and joint injuries.


Despite the multiple benefits provided by regular exercise, there are cases with an apparently healthy heart that can cause serious complications, especially at young ages. That is why it is of great importance or early recognition of possible heart disease with the pre-sport and pre-competition screening that those wishing to participate in sports activities will undergo.

A careful and detailed history regarding the presence of sudden or unexplained death in the family as well as a complete cardiac examination with resting ECG, Cardiac Triplex and in the elderly a Fatigue Test could detect patients with suspected heart disease.

In conclusion: The sedentary lifestyle of Western societies has adverse effects on the cardiovascular system, which can however be prevented and reversed and improve the quality of our life if we adopt moderate intensity physical activity in our daily schedule.

By Leonidas Stergiou, Doctor – Cardiologist of Kosmoiatrik.