Healthy Heart and Lungs: How can physical activity help?
Being physically active can be a huge step towards improving your health and achieving a healthy heart and lungs. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with a heart or lung condition or want to take preventative steps to improve your overall cardiovascular health, there is plenty of support available.
Heart problems are one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK. However, healthy lifestyle choices including regular physical activity can often prevent these.
Similarly, Lung Disease is responsible for 1/5 deaths in the UK but is highly avoidable. On this page, you’ll find information about how physical activity can help you manage and improve heart and lung health.
Getting started: Exercising with heart and lung conditions
This section is designed for those who are living with or supporting someone living with heart or lung problems. It focuses on the ways to manage heart and lung problems in your day to day life, and most effectively incorporate physical activity into your day safely.
If you are a healthcare professional looking for referral resources, click here.
Reduced feelings of breathlessness
Reduced stress and anxiety and boosted mood
Increased alertness and energy levels
Feeling less fatigued
Whilst you may need to be careful with certain conditions, conditions such as CVD (cardiovascular disease) should encourage you to take up physical activity. Incorporating 150 minutes of moderate physical activity into your week will begin to show results fairly quickly.
For suitable exercises to get started, check out our Active at Home section. There are tailored exercises for all ages and abilities.
Just make sure you consult your GP or specialist LTC Healthcare Professional about any lifestyle changes if you’re unsure.
When to avoid exercise
As there are so many types of heart condition, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ advice. However, you should be fairly safe exercising provided you’ve consulted your GP in advance. You should consider avoiding exercise if:
- Feeling ill, discomfort or fatigued: If you’re feeling tired or ill, stop and consider doing something a little more relaxing until you feel better. Don’t force exercise if you’re not feeling very well and be patient with yourself. (Bear in mind, if you have COPD, you should gradually try more activities that make you a little breathless as this will help you improve your breathing in the long term.)
- Undergoing surgery or treatment: If you’ve recently had any form of treatment or surgery, the hospital will likely recommend taking a break from physical activity so your body doesn’t become fatigued. Be sure to listen to their advice.
- Your GP or specialist LTC Healthcare Professional or has recommended it: You should always consult your GP or specialist LTC Healthcare Professional when taking on a new exercise regime. If your GP does recommend rest for a short time, be sure to follow this advice.
For Healthcare Professionals
Below are some useful resources on the benefits of remaining physically active with a heart or lung condition. You can download these or signpost patients to them.
For further information about having conversations with people about being physically active with a heart or lung condition, please visit Moving Medicine and the E Learning Page for directive conversation support.
How can physical activity help reduce chances of developing heart and lung conditions?
- Regular exercise can reduce CVD by 20-35%
- Exercise and sport can reduce Hypertension by 33%
- Physical Activity can be as effective as anti-hypertensive drugs, which reduce risk of death by 25-35%
- Maintain a healthy weight, thus reducing the amount your heart has to work, which will help prevent complications.
- Reduce mortality by 25-30%, and cardiac mortality by 20-30%
- Reduce heart attack risk by 60%
- Increase quality of life
Whilst there is little evidence to suggest that physical activity helps to prevent the onset of COPD (the overwhelming risk factor is still smoking), the overwhelming positive benefits in treating and managing COPD/asthma cannot be denied.
Resource bank for heart and lung conditions
There are several classes, professionals and charities that can provide support if you need it. Whether you already have issues with your heart and lungs, or you’re trying to take preventative action.