The Role of Exercise in Vascular Disease Prevention

Spring is such a lovely time! We hope everyone has gotten used to the time change for Daylight Savings Time. There are flowers everywhere and new green leaves on the trees and birds chirping. All the more reason for us to get out of our homes and get some exercise.


This is the fifth part of the series focusing on lifestyle management for the prevention of vascular disease. In the previous four issues, we addressed smoking cessation, blood pressure regulation, weight management, and the importance of sugar control. Now, let’s look at the role of exercise in the prevention of vascular disease.  


Physical activity helps to burn calories, increase the heart rate and keep blood flowing at a healthy rate. A regular exercise routine may reduce the risk of stroke, which is the fourth-leading cause of death in America. Studies have also shown that patients with peripheral arterial disease may be successfully treated with supervised exercise therapy and possibly avoid interventions, which are risky and expensive. Regular physical exercise also decreases the growth rate of abdominal aortic aneurysms.  


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of physical activity per week for adults ages 18-64. The activity can be a combination of moderate-intensity aerobics and strength training and should continue for at least 10 minutes at a time.


Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities that increase the heart rate and cause sweating:

  • Walking briskly (about a mile in 15 minutes)
  • Riding a bicycle at a casual pace (slower than 10 miles per hour)
  • Water aerobics
  • Ballroom dancing
  • Playing doubles tennis
  • Actively playing with children
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Gardening, raking, or batting leaves


Examples of vigorous-intensity aerobic activities that increase the heart rate, cause sweating and heavy breathing that limits talking:

  • Race walking, jogging, or running
  • Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack
  • Riding a bicycle fast or riding hills more than 10 mph
  • Swimming laps
  • Playing singles tennis
  • Playing basketball, football, soccer, etc.
  • Jumping rope
  • Aerobic dancing
  • Heavy gardening


Examples of twice-weekly muscle-strengthening activities: 


  • Sit-ups, push-ups
  • Weightlifting
  • Yoga
  • Heavy gardening such as digging and shoveling

The lack of regular physical activity results in 250,000 deaths annually, according to a 2003 report in the medical journal Circulation.  People who are the least physically fit have a mortality risk 4.5 times higher than physically fit people.

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