Be Nice, It’s Good for Your Heart

woman smiling

It is rare for people to consciously try to be nasty, but it is also quite rare for people to go out of their way to be kind to others. While helping other people should be enough of a reason to be nice, research has shown that having this friendly attitude will also bring you a number of different health benefits, making it more worthwhile than ever to be nice to others.

Heart Health
There are now several studies that have shown that there is a link between acts of kindness and the different markers of heart health. A study carried out in 2006 was especially successful in showing that acts of kindness were able to lower blood pressure, as it releases a chemical called nitric oxide within the body, which then dilutes blood vessels. This is also the case for “bad” cholesterol, which is lowered to quite an extent after consistent levels of kindness have been practised.

Stress and Cortisol
Whenever your body experiences stress, it releases the hormone cortisol throughout your body. While this is absolutely fine on occasion, chronic stress, and therefore the continuous release of cortisol, has many negative health effects. However, being nice is something that can drastically lower the cortisol levels within your body, which then has an impact on everything from your state of mind to the rate at which your body ages.

Illness Prevention
Research has shown that people who spend more time helping others tend to have a much stronger ability to ward off infections and illnesses.

doctor and patient

This could be due to the fact that they have lower markers of inflammation, as inflammation is responsible for a whole array of different diseases, including diabetes and cancer.

Reduced Pain
In addition to being nice to others, you should also remember to be nice to yourself. This means that, if you suffer from chronic pain, you should try to be as accepting and understanding about your condition as possible, rather than berating yourself for not improving fast enough. By being kinder to yourself in this way, the amount of pain that you experience is likely to quickly drop, which will then help you to recover even faster.

Longer Life
It comes as no surprise that those who are experiencing all of the above health benefits would enjoy a longer life, and research has backed this up. The studies looked in particular at people who volunteered for two or more charitable organizations, and found that they experienced a 44% lowered risk of dying early, which is even more of an impact than regular exercise has.

Science has definitely proven that being nice really pays off in so many different ways. If you are looking to carry out more acts of kindness, there are a number of ways in which you can do this. From volunteering at a local charity to paying someone a genuine compliment to simply being a listening ear for someone who is having a tough time, make it your mission to go out of your way to be nice to others as much as possible.

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Walk More to Keep Your Heart Healthy (and Happy!)

Strengthening your heart is so important, and while many may think that running and other more vigorous forms of exercise are the only way to properly do this, walking is an activity that is just as beneficial. Studies have shown that, when it comes to heart health, walking brings about many of the same advantages as other forms of exercise, and is an activity that just about everybody can easily partake in.

Woman walking on bridge

The Health Benefits of Walking
A brisk walk each and every day will bring your body so many different benefits. Not only does this lower high cholesterol, as well as high blood pressure, but it also cuts down your risk of diabetes. All three of these conditions are risk factors when it comes to heart disease and stroke, meaning that making an improvement in this area will significantly boost the health of your heart. In addition to this, regular walking is able to prevent depression, protect against dementia, and reduce the risk of so many other health issues, from colon cancer to erectile dysfunction to obesity.

How Much Walking to Do Each Day
The American Heart Association recommends that adults need around 30 minutes of physical activity each day, and brisk walking can definitely be a large part of this. If you find 30 minutes quite challenging to begin with, start off with smaller, achievable goals, and built this up slowly as your fitness levels increase. Alternatively, you could split your 30 minutes of exercise a day into two or three sessions, walking for just 10 or 15 minutes each time.

Woman walking along beach

Ways to Incorporate Walking Into Your Life
There are many different ways in which you can incorporate more walking in your life, and the more that you do so, the more enjoyment you will gain from it too. Taking the dog for a walk is a great way to exercise the both of you, as is taking your children to the park every afternoon. If shopping is a passion of yours, spend more time window shopping, making a conscious effort to cover the entire mall in a certain amount of time. When it comes to being at work, simply park your car further away from your workplace than you normally would, so that you have some walking to do to get there, and always take the stairs rather than the elevator. Rather than spending your entire lunch break sat at a table, take some time to walk around outside, as you will also gain so many benefits from the fresh air.

Walking Shoes
If you have decided to make the commitment to start walking more, then a reliable pair of shoes is a must. Many of the major athletic brands out there offer shoes designed specifically for walkers, with everything from a shock absorbent sole to a roomy toe box. Before purchasing a pair, make sure to try on your walking shoes while you are wearing athletic socks, so that you will really know how well they fit.

Physical activity is a must, but if you do not tend to enjoy the more traditional forms of exercise, walking could be perfect for you. Not only will this keep your heart strong, while boosting many other parts of your body, but it is also an activity that is easy to squeeze into your day, no matter how busy you may be.

You Can Be Physically Fit

Keeping your body physically active is vital when it comes to good health, with studies showing that regular activity can go a long way when it comes to reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, which are two of the nation’s biggest killers. From aerobic exercises that benefit the heart, to muscle strengthening activities that boost stamina and flexibility, working on building your physical fitness will bring about a range of benefits to your body.

Women exercising
Aerobic Exercises
Aerobic exercises keep the larger muscles in your arms, legs and hips moving, which, in turn, will make you breathe deeper and faster. This then increases the amount of oxygen that your blood is able to carry, and, with your heart beating faster, boosts blood flow to your muscles and lungs. Aerobic exercises will hugely benefit heart health, and there are many that you can choose from. For those who are not yet physically fit, walking is often the best aerobic exercise to start off with, as not only is it free and easy, but it is also quite a social activity. If you find yourself needing some extra motivation, there are several walking programs that you can sign up for, and these are proven to help increase success rates. Other aerobic exercises that are fantastic for the heart include biking, swimming, jogging, rowing, dancing and climbing the stairs.

Woman lifting weights
Muscle Strengthening Exercises
Engaging in exercises at least twice a week that strengthen the muscles is not only recommended by the US Department of Health and Human Services, but also by the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine. The reason for this is due to the way in which improved muscle strength is able to prevent bones from weakening with age, otherwise known as osteoporosis, cuts back on age-related muscle loss, and boosts an individual’s range of motion. For many adults and seniors, muscle strengthening exercises are just as, if not more, important than aerobic activity, and both of these should be incorporated into your weekly schedule. There are a number of activities that can help strengthen your muscles, from yoga to weight exercises to resistance training, with each activity improving muscle strength in different ways.

Minimum Amount of Exercise Needed
While exercising every day is always going to be the most beneficial, there are different recommended amounts depending on the health issue that you are hoping to address. To give your cardiovascular health an overall boost, you should be engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity over the course of the week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. You should also be including muscle-strengthening exercises two days a week, although this should be increased if you feel that your age puts you at a higher risk. When it comes to lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, 40 minutes of activity four times a week should be sufficient, but if this seems as though it may be too challenging for you, set yourself some shorter goals and work up to the optimum amount.

For those that live a relatively sedentary lifestyle, becoming physically fit can seem like an uphill battle. However, everyone has to begin somewhere, so start off small and work your way up until you have managed to reach the fitness level that you have aspired to.