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Using Exercise To Improve Heart Health & Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 28 April 2014
Hits: 12845

Exercise is one of the safest, most effective ways to prevent and treat chronic diseases such as heart disease? We all sort of know that exercise is good for us but for many people they still think “that won’t happen to me”. Yet for many of the people who I meet for the first time in my studio it is now because of health problems, not weight loss! In this article we explore what exercise is the best and even what is best to do as you get older. For over 13 years we have been working with people of all ages overcome injury and disease by using simple nutrition and exercise strategies. These same methods used to help get them out of trouble are also the methods used to prevent getting heart disease. The best part is these have no horrible side effects that are common to medication prescriptions. The side effects of this program are weight loss, more energy, stronger muscles and improved fitness. Who wouldn't want that?

Exercise Is As Effective As Medicine


As part of the Lift For Life program we have made it our mission the past 5-6 years in particular to educate the community about the importance of exercise. And gaining a good understanding of what type of exercise is best.

For not all exercise is good, and in some cases the exercise choice people make is actually doing the heart more harm than good. So having a good understating of this is critical if you want to achieve good health. Understanding nutrition and exercise has become very confusing and as we get older so it is no surprise that people do make bad choices even though their intention was good. The amount of exercise books, diet books and TV shows make it very hard to know what actually is the best choice of exercise for our health.  Make sure you watch the video above as this will quickly explain what we are about to cover.

Did you know that exercise was found to be as effective as medication for preventing heart disease?

This was confirmed in a massive review conducted by researchers at Harvard University and Stanford University, which compared the effectiveness of exercise versus drug interventions on mortality outcomes for four common conditions: Diabetes, Coronary heart disease, Heart failure & Stroke. After reviewing 305 randomized controlled trials, which included nearly 339,300 people, they found “no statistically detectable differences” between physical activity and medications for pre diabetes and heart disease. Exercise was also found to be more effective than drugs after you’ve had a stroke. The only time drugs beat exercise was for the recovery from heart failure, in which case diuretic medicines produced a better outcome.

How Exercise Benefits Your Heart and Health

We all know that Heart disease and cancer are the 2 top killers of people in the Western world, and exercise can effectively help prevent the onset of both, but why?

There are many reasons why this happens, reduces stress levels and an increase in muscle mass but is mainly due to the fact that exercise controls your insulin and leptin levels.

There are as many as 20 other beneficial biochemical changes that occur during exercise, some that help you burn calories and lose body fat, while others help stabilize your blood sugar and maintain testosterone and cortisol levels. Basically, being a healthy weight and exercising regularly creates a good cycle that optimizes and helps maintain healthy glucose, insulin and leptin levels.

Insulin and leptin resistance is caused by excessive eating of sugars and grains in combination with a lack of exercise—and is the major cause of weight gain and is now known to be the underlying factors of nearly all chronic diseases that we see in today’s modern lifestyle. The very first thing we get any clients to do is to get them off sugar and grains as soon as possible!

Understand that you MUST be eating good nutrition in order to succeed with your exercise regime. Watch the video below to see more about the best foods for heart health and the video about exercise.


Great articles to read about this are below.

Make Sure You Grab This Special Report

To include all of the exercises along with instructions and pictures this article would be over 10,000 words and take too long to read. To make it easier I created a detailed report that includes everything you need to know about nutrition and exercise. There is specific chapters relating to various needs like diabetes, lung capacity, cholesterol, and even detailed heart rate testing assessments. This is the ultimate manual to not only improve your heart health, but your overall health. You can download the PDF report instantly click here or on the image below. 

Make Sure You Know How To Breathe Correctly

Breathing feeds oxygen to every cell in the body. Without sufficient oxygen, people are more prone to health problems, including respiratory illnesses, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and even heart disease. But ordinary, everyday breathing isn't enough to keep the oxygen flowing through the body at peak levels. 

There have been many studies completed on this before and experts at Rush University Medical Centre conclude.

"Lungs at rest and during most daily activities are only at 50 percent of their capacity," says Jennifer M. Ryan, PT, MS, DPT, CCS, a certified specialist in cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy. "Like the rest of your body, lungs thrive on movement and activity." Since regular day-to-day activity doesn't help you use your lungs to full capacity, you need to challenge the lungs with more intense activity. "And to help counteract the build-up of toxins and tar in the lungs caused by environmental pollutants, allergens, dust and cigarette smoke, you need to help your lungs cleanse themselves," Ryan explains.  

In our article - How to improve your lung capacity we discuss the factors that contribute to improved breathing and how the lungs are closely linked to heart health. I have created a quick video to watch that explains the key points about this below.


What Type Of Exercise Is Best?

We have been convinced that exercise is all about getting sweaty and out of breath and that we need to lots of cardio!

This is where people go about trying to implement an endurance running or cycling program thinking it is great for their heart. We need some degree of aerobic fitness but overdoing this can be a disaster and unfortunately this can lead to heart problems! Strength training is a much better choice however once again we see many problems arise from this due to poor understanding of how to do it correctly.

Most strength programs are based on body building principles which can actually create more problems with how you move and injury. The everyday person is not a bodybuilder and does not want to be one, they need a strength program that enables them to move better in life.

While exercise alone can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as three times. The type of exercise is critical, because some exercise can create more problems than it solves!

For example, endurance-type exercise, such as marathon running, can actually damage your heart and increase your cardiovascular risk by as much as seven times!!

Research by Dr. Arthur Siegel, director of Internal Medicine at Harvard's McLean Hospital found that long-distance running leads to high levels of inflammation that can trigger cardiac events. Another 2006 study found that non-elite marathon runners experienced decreased right ventricular systolic function, again caused by an increase in inflammation and a decrease in blood flow. All in all, such findings are a powerful lesson that excessive cardio may actually be counterproductive.

I suggest reading the book "Heart Of A Champion" by former Ironman Greg Welch to see just how much damage endurance training can do to your heart.


Read our article for more detail on this -  Is Endurance Training Ruining Your Health?

Now this is not to say that all running and cardio training is bad for you. More to do with how it is done. Interval training which is short bursts of intense activity is safer and more effective than conventional cardio for your heart, general health, weight loss, and overall fitness. Combined with a strength training program you have the best of the best in terms of exercise prescription.

Interval Training Better & Heart Rate Testing


One of the best things about interval training and strength training is that both require only a fraction of the time to complete, as opposed to conventional cardio which requires considerably more time. For many people lack of time is the biggest obstacle in starting an exercise program.

Let's look at interval training first. Basically, by exercising in short bursts, followed by periods of recovery, you recreate exactly what your body needs for optimum health. Increased muscle will result from weights or intervals which will lower your body fat, speed up your metabolism (muscle is very inefficient), boost your energy and libido, improve athletic speed and performance. These type of exercises naturally increases your body's production of human growth hormone (HGH) which is essential to promote muscle and effectively burn excessive fat. As mentioned earlier muscle regulates blood sugars & glucose levels. Conventional cardio will NOT boost your HGH level, in fact it will lower HGH and testosterone which are crucial for adding muscle.

For ideas read our article - Interval Training Secrets To Health & Fitness

A great way to measure the effectiveness of your training is to continually use heart rate testing or VO2 max testing. These tests can easily be modified to suit the person and the video below provides you with 3 test that I use with clients I see in my studio. The tests themselves become great exercises in their own right for improving your heart and lung capacity.

Strength Training & Adding Muscle Is Critical

Now when it comes to adding muscle there is no faster way to do this than strength training. But there is many ways this can be done as we alluded to earlier and some are quite harmful to your body. Body building principles are not great to follow, and Crossift or F45 are not great if you know you have heart trouble.

When you consider that many people with heart problems are older adults, it makes no sense to take up some hard core circuit program. This is why so many older adults do not join a gym thinking this is what they will be told to do. Functional exercises are designed to restore balance, lengthen, strengthen, and coordinate movement patterns specific to how you move! The human brain does not think in terms of isolated muscles. Instead, it recruits groups of muscles in uniquely programmed sequences. A well designed conditioning program must therefore be designed to integrate the whole body. There has been many studies that have demonstrated the capability of people as old as 100 years to build muscle through resistance training.

Here is a just a short list of the various benefits of using a strength training program to add muscle.

  1. Muscle is the biggest influence on your metabolic rate. The more you have the faster your metabolism and the easier it is to lose weight
  2. Muscle regulates hormones and prevents disease like diabetes and cancer often caused from insulin resistance
  3. Muscle improves bone density and prevents bone fractures, osteoporosis, sarcopenia, and can even reverse arthritis.
  4. Muscle prevents injury and improves stability across all joints
  5. Muscle improves sporting performance by increasing speed and power.

None of these things are improved from a cardio training program. They will improve slightly but not to the level they need to be for dramatic improvement and overall health.

The older you are the important this becomes for as we age we begin to lose muscle! We start to lose muscle in our 30's before it starts to accelerate the loss in our 40's and 50's. Research shows that muscle strength declines 30% on average from ages 50-70 with more dramatic losses after the age of 80. This is why people gain weight so easily in their 40's and 50's even though their diet has not changed much from when they were in their 30's and 20's. It is all to do with the amount of muscle.

The good news is you can slow this ageing process and even reverse the effects of this. But you must start training now and you can never stop! Ever! It is never too late to start either. We have many people in their 70's training with us and they improve even at that age! Check out our older adults program called Stronger For Longer.

The benefits to your health from adding muscle cannot be overstated.

For more ideas on how to do this make sure you download the Free Report below by clicking here


The take-home message from this article here is to spend more time doing weight training and interval training. Heart attacks, for example, don't happen because your heart lacks endurance. They happen during times of stress, when your heart needs more energy and pumping capacity, but doesn't have it. So rather than stressing your heart with excessively long periods of cardio, give weight training and interval training a try. Remember you must have good nutrition in order for success with your exercise efforts.

For more ideas and information on specific topics I may not have covered in detail be sure to check out our INDEX PAGE on the website that has over 300 of our best articles. These are all sorted into categories for quick reference so you can find what you are after more easily. You can also subscribe to our FREE fortnightly newsletter by clicking here.

If you enjoyed this article and live in Melbourne and would like to know more about our Lift For Life program or any of our Personal Training programs click the image below to request a free consultation.

About The Author

Nick Jack is owner of No Regrets Personal Training and has over 16 years’ experience as a qualified Personal Trainer, Level 2 Rehabilitation trainer, CHEK practitioner, and Level 2 Sports conditioning Coach. Based in Melbourne Australia he specialises in providing solutions to injury and health problems for people of all ages using the latest methods of assessing movement and corrective exercise.


  • WHO -World Health Organisation
  • Heart foundation
  • Precision Nutrition
  • Nutrition & Physical Degeneration - By Weston A Price
  • Big Fat Lies - By David Gillespie
  • How To Eat, Move & Be Healthy by Paul Chek
  • Movement - By Gray Cook
  • Corrective Exercise Solutions - by Evan Osar
  • Athletic Body Balance by Gray Cook
  • Diagnosis & Treatment Of Movement Impairment Syndromes - By Shirley Sahrman
  • Motor Learning and Performance - By Richard A Schmidt and Timothy D Lee
  • Assessment & Treatment Of Muscle Imbalance - By Vladimir Janda