exercise and heart disease

Confronting Inactivity: The Role of Exercise in Heart Disease

Heart disease, a term encompassing a range of conditions that affect the heart’s structure and function, stands as a significant health challenge globally. 


In Australia and New Zealand, heart disease continues to be a prominent health concern despite advancements in medical care. According to the Heart Foundation, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in both countries. In Australia alone, it’s responsible for around 12% of all deaths, while in New Zealand, it accounts for 30% of all deaths. 


These statistics underscore the urgent need for proactive measures to tackle this issue, highlighting the pivotal role of education, awareness, and lifestyle choices in fostering heart health for individuals and communities alike.


Understanding Heart Disease


So, what exactly does it mean when someone says they have heart disease? The truth is, it could mean a number of things. Heart disease is an umbrella term encompassing a spectrum of intricate conditions that disrupt the heart’s normal functioning.


These conditions might include coronary artery disease (CAD), where vital pathways carrying oxygen-rich blood become narrowed due to fatty deposits, potentially leading to chest discomfort or heart attacks. Additionally, heart disease could involve arrhythmias, irregular heartbeats that might cause fleeting disruptions in the heart’s rhythm. 


In essence, those who have heart disease, have some sort of disruption within the orchestration of the heart’s vital functions. Left unchecked, any of these issues can pave the way for more serious incidents like heart failure, heart attack and stroke. 


Harnessing the Power of Exercise


Okay, let’s dispel the cloud of uncertainty. While the topic might seem a tad daunting, rest assured, we can offer some form of reprise. 


In the realm of health, particularly concerning disease, we often delve into the concept of “risk factors” – some of which we can influence, and others that stand beyond our control. Unmodifiable risk factors, like genetic predisposition, age, and gender, fall into the latter category. However, it’s the modifiable risk factors where our influence shines.These are all things we do (or don’t do..) everyday and therefore, things we can change (hooray!). 


At the top of that list are smoking, dietary habits, stress and our personal nemesis – inactivity. Now we know not everyone loves exercise as much as we do, so in case you need more convincing, here’s just a few ways that exercise can help to prevent heart disease. 


Strengthening the Heart 

With each bout of exercise, the heart grows more efficient in pumping blood and oxygen to every nook of the body.


Managing Risk Factors

Physical activity acts as a guardian, keeping blood pressure in check, reducing unfavourable cholesterol levels, and aiding in weight management, all of which contribute to mitigating heart disease risk.


Enhancing Blood Flow

Exercise turns into a maestro for circulation, promoting the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the heart and beyond, bolstering arterial health.


Reducing Inflammation

Chronic inflammation and heart disease share a complex relationship. Exercise steps in as a conductor of balance, helping to manage inflammation and fostering a heart-healthy environment.


Boosting Mood and Reducing Stress

Exercise is a proven strategy for reducing stress. We really love this benefit, because not only are you addressing one risk factor – you’re addressing two! 


Today’s the day! 🌅


Remember, the journey towards prioritising your heart health is always open, regardless of where you start. And exercise, it’s there, patiently waiting for your embrace. Curious about how to embark on this journey? It’s quite simple, actually: move more, sit less. But don’t worry, we’ll delve into the specifics next week. Stay tuned…



-Heart Foundation NZ. (n.d.). Welcome to the New Zealand Heart Foundation. https://www.heartfoundation.org.nz/?gad=1&gclid=CjwKCAjwivemBhBhEiwAJxNWN64n95QWs5-TuRlnLh_lGcXvYpiqLaT5HOp6jSyXhkl8hp8Z_op2vxoCAHYQAvD_BwE

-Research | Heart Foundation. (n.d.). https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/Bundles/Our-Research

-Tian, D., & Meng, J. (2019). Exercise for Prevention and Relief of cardiovascular Disease: Prognoses, mechanisms, and approaches. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2019, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/3756750

Author: Tessa Nielsen 
Clinical Exercise Physiologist and
Content Creator at Specialised Health

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