Physical exercise

An inactive lifestyle is another major risk factor for CVD4. An increase in overall levels of physical activity and aerobic exercise is also suggested by several guidelines1,3,5 as a very important non-pharmacological tool for primary CVD prevention.

Physical activity has a positive effect on many of the established risk factors for CVD such as preventing and reducing BP, helping to control body weight, improving blood lipids (reducing LDL-cholesterol without consistent effects on HDL-cholesterol and TG) and lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes1,3,5.

Daily physical activity, at moderate intensity should be emphasized as a part of an active lifestyle!

Primary care is an important setting for the promotion of physical activity. Recommendations should be tailored to patient's needs and range from simple lifestyle advice through to the roll-out of targeted programs for harder-to-reach individuals. 2.5 to 5 hours per week of moderate-intensity physical activity/aerobic exercise training or 1 to 1.5 hours per week of vigorous-intensity physical activity/aerobic exercise training is recommended1. One can achieve these recommendations by splitting the total volume of physical activity/ aerobic exercise training into 3-5 sessions per week or into 2-3 daily bouts of 10-15 minutes each distributed over most days of the week1.

Moderate activity raises the heart rate and make the breath go faster. Examples of moderate-intensity physical activity include common activities such as walking fast, gardening work, riding a bike on level ground or with a few hills, and hiking.

150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity are equivalent to 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running or jogging or a game of singles tennis every week.

Initial lifestyle steps to help patients to become more physically active are:
  • image Encouraging patients to walk to the next station or bus stop rather than taking the usual one, taking the stairs rather than a lift.
  • image Simple exercise programmes that can be worked into a daily schedule, such as gardening, house cleaning and walking to the shops.
  • image Riding a bike on level ground or with some hills.

  • image Encouraging spending less time watching TV and opting for outdoor recreational activities

  • image Muscle strengthening excercises such as lifting weights or working with resistance bands.
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Physical activity should be encouraged, aiming at regular physical exercise for at least 30 minutes a day every day.