Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number 1 cause of death globally, taking around 18 million lives a year. CVDs are diseases related to the heart or vascular system, the most common are heart attacks and strokes. Is preventing cardiovascular diseases possible with training?
Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
You have a higher risk at getting a CVD when you have raised blood pressure, a high level of glucose, lipids and overweight/obesity. In addition, if family members have a history with CVD chances are higher that it’s hereditary. If you want to check your own health see your local GP first. In case you need to improve your lifestyle, you’ll be sent to a specialist. A dietician, for example, who can help you change your diet.
Decreasing Your Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
There are many aspects of decreasing the risk of a CVD. Most common ones are: a good diet, enough exercise, limited (or better no) smoking and drinking, low stress levels etc. This article deals with the exercising part. But the others factors are just as important.
Recent studies show that aerobic exercise training (AET) reduces blood pressure (BP) with 7mmhg. Dynamic resistance training lowers BP with 2-3 mmhg. These reductions rival antihypertension medications and all three reduce CVD risk with 20-30%.
Another study has proven that a combination of aerobic with resistance training lowers your CVD risk more than doing just one of them.
So you have a higher risk at CVDs where do you start?
Before you start, ask yourself these questions:
- Frequency – How often do I need to train?
- Intensity – How hard do I need to train?
- Time – How long do I need to train?
- Type – What kind of exercise?
The FITT principle is a good guide for the exercise you need to help you prevent cardiovascular diseases. And it entails the following.
Frequency of Training
Aerobic exercises of moderate intensity are best if you do them every day. But if you are not able to do that, set yourself the goal of at least 3 times a week. The frequency may depend on the intensity of your training too. For resistance training 2-3 times a week is enough.
Aerobic exercise should be at an intensity of 40-60% of your maximum heart rate. For example, if you are 50 years old, your maximum heart rate should be around 170 beats per minute (BPM). 50% is around 85 BPM. You will achieve 85 BPM by walking your dog (or just walking, obviously, if you don’t have a dog). A simple method to estimate your maximum heart rate: 220 – (your age). This method isn’t scientific but it’s a fast and simple way to determine if you’re in the moderate intensity zone or in the high intensity zone.
You may also perform aerobic exercise on 60-80% of your maximum heart rate. But in that case, 3 times a week will be enough. For resistance training an intensity of 60-80% of your 1 repetition maximum is enough.
Time: How Long You Need to Train
Aerobic exercise should be done between 30 and 60 continuous minutes a day. For resistance training try to do 3 sets with 10-12 repetitions for 8-10 exercises targeting the upper and lower body muscles.
Type of Training
For moderate intensity aerobic training you can do activities like walking, cycling and swimming. For high aerobic training you can go jogging, mountain biking, swimming (fast), play sports like football or volleyball, skating and many more. And for resistance training you can go to the gym and use machine weights, free weights, resistance bands and, of course, calisthenics and functional body weight exercises.
Your next step is to combine the FITT principles and make your own workout routine. We are happy to help you with that. Of course, you can change frequency and time, depending on your intensity.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) guide lines you should perform 150 minutes of moderate- intensity aerobic exercise per week. You can also perform high intensity aerobic exercise for 75 minutes per week.
In addition, you should do resistance training 2-3 times per week. Imagine going to the gym twice a week. You can perform 8-10 resistance training exercises in 45 minutes/ 1 hour. When you’re done, do a 30-minute high-intensity aerobic exercise like jogging or fast cycling. And once a week you will walk for 30 minutes. That’s 3,5 hours of training in a week. Is that really too much effort to significantly lower your risks of a CVD?
Take Home Message
CVDs are the number 1 cause of death globally. If CVDs run in your family it is advised to lower the risk as much as possible. Preventing cardiovascular diseases is possible. You do this by eating healthy, reducing stress, not drinking/smoking too much and exercising. If you think you have symptoms of a CVD or want a check up, see your GP and he will help find you the right specialist to lower your risk. Doing cardio and resistance training twice a week will benefit you very much in preventing cardiovascular diseases.
Having a good diet is also essential to good health. We have an entire section for you about nutrition and a created a clean eating program for you there.
- World health organisation. Cardiovascular diseases. 2020; https://www.who.int/health-topics/cardiovascular-diseases/#tab=tab_1 consulted on 2-3-2020
- Pescatello L, Macdonald H, Lamberti L et al. Exercise for Hypertension: A Prescription Update Integrating Existing Recommendations with Emerging Research. 2015: 17: 87-97.
- Cornelissen V, Smart N. Exercise training for blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Heart Assoc. 2013;2, e004473.
- Whelton S, Chin A, Xin X, et al. Effect of aerobic exercise on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. Ann Intern Med. 2002; 136: 493–503.
- Schroeder E , Franke W , Sharp R et al. Comparative effectiveness of aerobic, resistance, and combined training on cardiovascular disease risk factors: A randomized controlled trial. Plos one. 2019; 14: 1-14.
- Mayo clinic. How much should the average adult exercise every day. 2020; https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/exercise/faq-20057916 Consulted on 2-3-2020