Exercise for a Healthy Heart

Cardiovascular conditions affect the heart, blood and blood vessels and are this nation’s leading cause of death. Over 1.2million Australians have heart disease, stroke, or vascular conditions and it is undeniable that recent evidence dictates physical inactivity and not meeting exercise guidelines are well-known modifiable risk factors for these conditions.

So what are the exercise guideline for preventing CVD?

Aerobic exercise requires pumping of oxygenated blood by the heart to deliver to working muscles. The National Heart Foundation recommends 30mins of regular aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, cycling, on most days of the week. It is advised you should be working at a moderate intensity, meaning your breathing and heart rate will increase but you are still able to carry a conversation. The National Heart foundation also recommends light to moderate resistance training 2-3 days/week that target large muscle groups. Special considerations of exercise include performing appropriate warm up and cool down, and avoid holding your breath during exercise, particularly when lifting.

Remember think of movement as an opportunity not an inconvenience. Any form of incidental activity of the body is seen as an opportunity for improving health. Simple examples of incidental activity include; walking up stairs instead of the taking lift, break up long periods of sitting by standing and stretching as often as possible and get off the train or bus a couple of stops earlier or park further away and walk.

Benefits of Exercise on Cardiovascular Health

Benefits of Exercise

Impact on the Heart

Impact on the Blood Vessels

Impact on Blood

– Prevent heart valves from stiffening

– Normalise heart rate; prevent arrhythmias

-Stronger heart muscle to pump more efficiently; reduce overall stress on heart

– Delay angina/chest pain threshold


– Reduce vessel stiffness, which reduces BP

– Reduces build of up of plaque/ blockages

-Increase number of small blood vessels to deliver blood to working muscles/organs more efficiently.


– Reduce thickness and stickiness of blood, making it easier for heart to pump it around

-Increase good cholesterol (HDL) and reduce bad cholesterol (LDL)

-Decreases clot formations


Returning to exercise after a Cardiac event or Stent Implant?

Exercise intensity and duration can be difficult to determine depending on your level of conditioning and/or post-surgery recovery. Therefore, seeking advice from an exercise physiologist and following an evidenced-based, graduated exercise regime is an effective strategy to ease into a more active lifestyle and manage your cardiac health appropriately.

It is normal for people to be uneasy or hesitant to return to exercise and physical activity following a cardiac event or surgery- but you are not alone! Our exercise physiologists will work with you through these barriers, monitor your signs and symptoms, educate you on current exercise restrictions/precautions and deliver safe, effective interventions that target your goals.

Written by Susie Seitaridis


Australian Government Department of Health. 2020. What We’Re Doing About Cardiovascular Conditions. [online] Available at: <https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/chronic-conditions/what-were-doing-about-chronic-conditions/what-were-doing-about-cardiovascular-conditions>
Gronek, P., Wielinski, D., Cyganski, P., Rynkiewicz, A., Zając, A., Maszczyk, A., Gronek, J., Podstawski, R., Czarny, W., Balko, S., CT. Clark, C. and Celka, R., 2020. A Review of Exercise as Medicine in Cardiovascular Disease: Pathology and Mechanism. Aging and disease, 11(2), p.327.
Heartfoundation.org.au. 2020. Physical Activity And Exercise | Heart Foundation. [online] Available at: <https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/heart-health-education/physical-activity-and-exercise>
Gielen, S., Schuler, G. and Adams, V., 2010. Cardiovascular Effects of Exercise Training. Circulation, 122(12), pp.1221-1238.




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