18 January 2006

Sport: therapy for the heart

Have you ever wondered which exercise is best for boosting heart health? Research has revealed that sports like swimming and running are some of the most suitable ones.

Have you ever wondered which exercise is best for boosting heart health?

Extensive research on the subject has revealed that cardiovascular sports like swimming and running are some of the most suitable ones. Here's why:

Swimming a good 'all-rounder'
When you swim, it's easy for the heart to distribute blood and oxygen to the rest of the body. While swimming, the body is in a horizontal position and is suspended in the water.

This makes it easy for blood to circulate, as it doesn’t have to overcome gravity, such as when you are running. According to the experts, swimming improves overall "cardiovascular conditioning".

Also, if you judge your workout in terms of calories consumed, swimming comes out tops.

To illustrate: an average-sized man will burn between 15 and 25 calories per minute of actual swimming time, at a speed of 100 metres in one minute, 23 seconds. One hour at this intensity would burn roughly 900 to 1500 calories.

But if the same guy runs for an hour at five minutes per kilometre, he will burn 660 to 1200 calories.

"These values confirm that swimming is one of the best all-round exercises available, due to the large number of muscle groups heavily involved," Chris Carmichael, coach of seven-times Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong, and founder of Carmichael Training Systems, says.

Another benefit of swimming is that it's non-weightbearing, which means that it doesn't pose a risk to joints and bones. In fact, swimming gets full marks for being aerobically intense without being high impact.

Running also strengthens the heart
However, swimming is not the only sport that's good for the heart and body in general. Running also helps to build cardiovascular health, and helps to strengthen the muscles of the heart. It also increases the oxygen supply to the body.

In addition, running helps to strengthen the bones, and tones the muscles of the legs, hips and abdomen.

Scientists agree that sports like running, swimming and cycling can without a doubt boost the health of the heart. In fact, the heart needs cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis. The type of sport, however, is less of an issue.

"Your heart doesn’t know the difference. All it knows is that it's having to work," says Jonathan Dugas, exercise physiologist at UCT and the Sports Science Institute of South Africa. In the end, it all depends how long and at what intensity you exercise.

"What is important is that you choose an activity you enjoy, to make sure you are still out there doing it a few months down the line," Dugas says.

(Source: Lisa Templeton, Heart Magazine)

January 2006


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