Exercise for Your Heart

February is National Heart Month and so there's lots in the news lately about eating healthy. We know that our diets have a huge impact on the state of our health. With the rise in overweight and obesity rates we have been hearing more about diet AND exercise the past few years.

How about exercise? How important is it for us to exercise on a regular basis?

Actually, we can talk a long time about the benefits of exercise. Let's quickly review some really interesting new information from a brand new study that pretty much says it all.

Published in a January 18, 2011 issue of the Journal of American College of Cardiology, this study found that spending too much leisure time in front of a TV or computer screen appears to dramatically increase the risk for heart disease and premature death from any cause. Perhaps, regardless of how much exercise you get.

Uh oh. Does that sound like you?

Data from that study showed that compared to people who spend less than 2 hours each day on screen based entertainment like watching TV, using the computer or playing video games, those who devote more than four hours a day to these activities are more than twice as likely to have a major cardiac event that involves hospitalization, death, or both.

And these associations were independent of traditional risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, BMI, social class, or exercise.

So, basically, what this means is that you just can’t spend half an hour at the gym or take a walk and then come home and sit in front of the computer or TV the rest of the day. You really need to take that fit walk or do that work out at the gym, of course, but then, continue to be as active as you possibly can throughout the day.

And realistically, we know that many of us do sit at computers for more than an hour or two everyday. So this study really, really enforces the importance of taking breaks and trying to be as active as possible. Take a walk, up a few flight to stairs, park your car, a block or two from your destination, go bike riding on the weekend, and be sure you walk your dog everyday, or borrow your neighbour's dog if you don’t have one. In other words, move more.

Your takeaway for National Heart Month: focus on eating a healthy diet AND get regular exercise. Together, they both lower heart disease risk. And if you do sit a lot during the day, get up and move around a few times in addition to your exercise time each day.

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