Maintaining Heart Health: Regular Exercise vs Sedentary Lifestyle

By March 1, 2024 Advisor, Blog, Consumer, News
Young man helping the older man with his treadmill

Cardiovascular diseases are a significant health concern worldwide, and in Canada, they affect a large number of people each year. Many Canadians, even at a young age, face some risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.

This highlights the importance of preventive measures. Simple lifestyle changes can play a vital role in reducing these risks. Adopting healthier habits, like regular exercise and a balanced diet, could help prevent these chronic conditions and promote overall heart health.

Heart health is closely tied to our daily habits, especially physical activity. Regular exercise, like walking, cycling, or swimming, doesn’t just make our heart muscles stronger – it can also help with weight control, reduce stress, and lower blood pressure—all keys to a healthy heart. Living actively can lead to a healthier, longer life. In contrast, a lifestyle with too much sitting and not enough movement can be bad for our hearts. So, staying active is more than just fitness; it’s a way to keep your heart working well and prevent health problems down the road.


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Benefits of Regular Exercise for Heart Health

Exercise does wonders for strengthening the heart muscle. This leads to more efficient blood pumping, which in turn ensures that every part of the body receives a steady flow of oxygen and essential nutrients. Improved circulation from regular exercise can also aid in faster recovery from injuries and reduce the risk of various heart-related illnesses. Plus, a stronger heart muscle from consistent physical activity means better endurance, making everyday tasks easier and enhancing your quality of life.

Impact on Cholesterol and Blood Pressure

Regular exercise offers significant benefits for cholesterol management.1 It boosts good cholesterol (HDL), which helps clear plaque from the arteries, and lowers bad cholesterol (LDL), known for contributing to artery blockages. Exercise is also great for keeping blood pressure under control, a key factor in preventing heart disease. By managing blood pressure, exercise serves as a protective measure against heart-related problems, making it an essential part of maintaining heart health.

Metabolic and Psychological Benefits

Being physically active plays a vital role in controlling blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes, which can go hand-in-hand with heart disease. Burning calories through exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight, easing the burden on the heart. It can also boost endorphins, the body’s natural mood enhancers, which are great for lowering stress. Since stress can affect heart health, using exercise as a stress-buster is a smart way to take care of your heart.

Improved Sleep and Longevity

People who exercise regularly often enjoy better sleep. Quality sleep plays a key role in the body’s ability to heal and regulate itself, including heart functions. Moreover, regular exercise is linked to a longer lifespan and a markedly reduced risk of dying from heart disease.2 This connection underscores the powerful effect that including physical activity in your daily routine can have on enhancing heart health and extending life.

Risks of a Sedentary Lifestyle for Heart Health

A sedentary lifestyle with prolonged periods of inactivity is a major factor in the risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes. Long hours of sitting at work, excessive screen time, and a lack of movement can lead to various health issues, directly affecting heart health.

Cholesterol Imbalance and Obesity

A sedentary lifestyle not only disrupts cholesterol balance but also affects how the body processes fats, leading to a unique concern: the increase of triglycerides. High levels of triglycerides, another type of fat in the blood, are often seen in those with inactive lifestyles and can work alongside LDL (bad cholesterol) to worsen artery health. This combination of high LDL and triglycerides accelerates the buildup of plaques in the arteries, heightening the risk of heart disease.3

Impact on Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome

Physical inactivity not only increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease but also plays a key role in developing metabolic syndrome.4 This syndrome involves a mix of health issues that go beyond high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels. It also includes heightened inflammation and a tendency for blood clotting, both of which significantly raise the risk of serious heart conditions like coronary artery disease and strokes. Moreover, a lack of exercise can lead to insulin resistance, where the body struggles to respond to insulin. This worsens the risks linked to metabolic syndrome, further emphasizing the need for regular physical activity to prevent a variety of heart-related health problems.

Circulatory and Psychological Effects

A sedentary lifestyle can lead to poor blood circulation, which decreases the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the heart and other organs. This reduction in blood flow can impair heart function and overall health. Sedentary behaviour has been linked to an increased risk of depression and anxiety. These mental health conditions can arguably indirectly impact heart health by influencing behaviours that affect heart disease risk, such as poor diet and lack of physical activity.

Decline in Physical Fitness

Inactivity not only results in a general decline in physical fitness but can specifically affect the heart in nuanced ways. When you’re inactive, the heart muscle’s strength and endurance may diminish, leading to less efficient pumping. This can escalate into conditions like heart failure, where the heart struggles to meet the body’s demands for blood and oxygen. Plus, it can lead to a decrease in the heart’s ability to respond and adapt to stress, making it less capable of handling sudden physical exertion or emotional stress, which can trigger heart-related events like arrhythmias or heart attacks.

Combating a Sedentary Lifestyle

Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can be simple and highly beneficial. Small choices, like taking the stairs or opting to walk or bike for short trips, can greatly improve your fitness. Even brisk household chores can count as exercise. For those with desk jobs, taking regular breaks to stand or walk or using tools like standing desks or under-desk pedal exercisers can help offset the effects of sitting too long. Setting aside specific times for exercise and treating them as fixed appointments can help you establish a consistent routine. Viewing exercise as an essential part of your day is key to building a healthy habit that boosts overall well-being.

Taking steps towards better heart health not only enhances your overall well-being but can also lead to more affordable insurance premiums. If you’re facing challenges in obtaining insurance due to health issues, Canada Protection Plan is here for you. We specialize in No Medical* & Simplified Issue Life Insurance, offering coverage without the need for a medical exam. If you are a Foresters member**, you can take advantage of the Foresters GO*** app, which rewards users for getting active with discounts on everyday items. Reach out to us today for a plan that ensures your future is protected.

Canada Protection Plan is one of Canada’s leading providers of No Medical and Simplified Issue Life Insurance. Our mission is to provide reliable protection and compassionate service from coast to coast with easy-to-purchase life insurance, critical illness insurance and related products. Our expanding product choices will help you get the coverage and peace of mind you need for a better financial future. Canada Protection Plan products are available through over 25,000 independent insurance advisors across Canada.

423042 CAN (02/24)

*   Insurability depends on answers to medical and other application questions and underwriting searches and review.
**  Foresters member benefits are non-contractual, subject to benefit specific eligibility requirements, definitions and limitations and may be changed or cancelled without notice or are no longer available.
*** Foresters Go is provided by The Independent Order of Foresters and is operated by dacadoo AG.

  1. Regular exercise offers significant benefits for cholesterol management
  2. Massive study uncovers how much exercise is needed to live longer
  3. The Role of Lipids and Lipoproteins in Atherosclerosis
  4. Benefits of Physical Activity
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