03 February 2024

Heart Health in Women

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What do you think if I told you that exercise/movement is like a wonder drug?  Evidence shows that physical activity can help with the following:

  • improves wellbeing
  • improves mood
  • helps with weight management
  • helps reduce chronic stress
  • strengthens muscles
  • strengthens bones
  • helps regulate blood pressure & cholesterol
  • helps reduce heart disease & strokes
  • helps reduce type 2 diabetes
  • helps lower the risk of death by up to 30%

WOW that is a great prescription hey and it can be free .

So if you find yourself not really exercising much – then take a look at the list again and see if it will motivate you to start moving/exercising more.

Our bodies – bones, muscles, connective tissue like fascia, needs us to move.  When you don’t do you notice you stiffen up a bit or become more achy.

Women can find it more challenging to fit exercise in, in their menopausal years.  Not all obviously, but the menopause are those twilight years of not only managing family time with kids, often teenage kids who need driving around, but also work commitments and elderly parents.  New research shows how shorter bursts of exercise, ie less time consuming,  can really help the heart!

It is actually more important than ever to move when we get older, ie post menopause.  We lose muscle mass ( the heart is a muscle) & bone density from the age of 35 but it we lost it more dramatically post menopause.  You may think by being busy rushing around all the time is enough.  Unfortunately, research shows that we do actually have to fit in actual bursts of exercise.

You can end up being exhausted from running around after work or family and hence exercise is the last of your priorities. It can actually help you feel better – not in excess but building it into your life.

Lets look at the heart

We take our hearts for granted.  It is doing a job 24/7 and we don’t really pay it much notice until something happens. It beats on average 60x a minute, 3600x per hour and 86,400x in 24 hours! It has to work hard!

I am not going to scare you, but coronary heart disease (CAD), one of the most common forms of heart disease,  kills over 3 million people a year.  It occurs when the arteries that supply the heart with blood, oxygen & nutrients become clogged or filled with plaque, which can eventually cause things like heart attacks.

Researches over time have looked at ways to prevent CAD – like healthy eating, exercise, less stress etc. However, newer research looking into whether arterial plaque can be shrunk and managed is looking promising.

Research into HIIT exercise for heart health

Cardiologist Dr. Joel Kahn discusses the power of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Yes, short, sharp exercise. This is a specific type of exercise that involves alternating between very intense movement and lower-intensity movement for a few rounds of exercise. Not only is HIIT very effective, but it’s also less time consuming than traditional methods of exercise.

Dr. Khan talks about one study published last year in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, where researchers were able to show just how impressive HIIT can be when it comes to our cardiovascular health. I have to add, it was mainly men in the study but there were a few women.

Basically, two groups were placed into either a HIIT group or a control group that followed traditional preventative guidelines when it comes to coronary artery disease. Each group followed their specific intervention for 6 months, and their coronary atheroma volume was measured at both the start and the end of the study. (Coronary atheroma volume measures the build up of plaque in the arteries.)

The outcome:  Compared to the control group, the HIIT group had a regression of atheroma volume after 6 months of supervised training. Regression is huge! That means they were actually able to reverse arterial plaque! 

Graphical Abstract

How to Start High-Intensity Interval Training 

The beautiful thing about HIIT is that there are so many different ways to incorporate it into your life. Here are 3 examples of how to begin HIIT to get the benefits of this impactful, low-maintenance workout form.  Always make sure you start at a level best for you and your present fitness.  You may start with walking fast & slow and then build it up.

  • Beginner Sprints: Start by doing a simple warm-up for 5–10 minutes on either your treadmill or wherever you like to walk and run. You should be walking at a pace where you can still carry on a conversation. After five minutes, sprint all out for 30 seconds. Then, slow down for 1–2 minutes at a more moderate pace. Repeat this rotation four times. Follow it with a cool-down period.
  • The 7 minute workout: This is a great workout for anyone who is limited on time but wants to experience the benefits of high-intensity training combined with variety. It incorporates 30 seconds on each of the body weight exercises, non stop for 7 minutes:
  • squats, press -ups, step ups, planks, run / high knee lifts on the spot, side planks, squat jumps (if able to), triceps dips & lunges.  Maybe count how many you can do in 7 minutes.
  • 20-minute HIIT workout: If you want to take it a step further.  You can choose 2 exercises and do 30 on 10 off for 10 minutes, 1 minute recovery then choose 2 more exercises & do 30 on 10 0ff for 10 mins.

These are just a few examples of high-intensity interval training. You can keep it simple with biking or sprinting.  The key is to be consistent and give your maximum effort when possible, ie push it hard when you are pushing it and going easy when not.

 

 

Still not sure which fitness class is for you?

Are you a woman who has pelvic girdle pain? Do you have pelvic floor issues? Have you had a C-section, episiotomy or tears? Do you have a Diastasis Recti or weak deep abdominals? Are you peri – menopausal? Do you want to get fit in a safe environment? I can help, get in touch to find out more.

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