Want to keep your heart healthy and your arteries unclogged? Exercise is the key. New research shows exactly how much exercise you should be getting to keep both in optimum health.
However, physical activity isn't the only factor when it comes to healthy arteries. According to Mayo Clinic, in addition to a sedentary lifestyle, coronary artery disease can also be caused by smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Be sure to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
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Consider the Evidence
A study published in May 2018 by The Journal of Physiology determines that working out two to three times per week for 30 minutes is sufficient to keep the middle-size arteries (the ones that supply oxygenated blood to the head and neck) young.
People who exercised four times a week or more additionally kept their main arteries — which provide blood to both the chest and abdomen — healthy. Basically, if you want to keep your heart young, plan on exercising at least four times every week.
"This work is really exciting because it enables us to develop exercise programs to keep the heart youthful and even turn back time on older hearts and blood vessels," explained one of the authors of the study, Benjamin Levine, M.D., founder and director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine (IEEM) at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.
Review the Stats
Researchers with the IEEM enlisted 102 people over the age of 60 who had consistently kept track of their exercise habits throughout their lives. They also looked at arterial stiffness of each participant, which is a key index of arterial health. Then they split their subjects into four groups based on how often they worked out.
There were the "sedentary" folks (who engaged in less than two exercise sessions per week), the "casual exercisers" (with two to three per week), the "committed exercisers" (who logged four to five per week) and the "master athletes" (who managed to pull off an astounding six to seven exercise sessions in a single week).
The results? As mentioned above, working out at least four times per week for 30 minutes was found to be best.
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Consider the Benefits
Most of us already know that the benefits of exercising extend past physical appearance. Not only can it boost your mood, it can also prevent a slew of chronic health conditions, help with bone and muscle health and seriously improve cardiovascular health.
As with most research, the study has limitations. It doesn't specify exactly the type of exercises participants engaged in, only that they counted "moderate" intensity and above and that the sample of participants was relatively small.
However, these recommendations aren't unrealistic and are pretty consistent with those included in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which suggests that adults get at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate exercise per week or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous exercise.
Choosing activities your enjoy will increase your chances of sticking with these healthy habits.