Why exercising 30 minutes a day is good for the body
Having regular physical activity is good for your health. But in practice, what are the benefits?
Prof. François Carré, cardiologist and sports doctor at the Rennes CHRU, answered our questions.
How does physical activity affect the heart and blood vessels?
When you exercise, your heart beats faster. The blood then circulates faster in the vessels, and in doing so, the red blood cells will rub against the wall of the blood vessels: nitric oxide is released, which increases the flexibility of these vessels. Same benefit for the coronary arteries which bring blood to the heart muscle.
In addition, physical activity promotes the development of new vessels: a network is formed which will make it possible to replace the failing vessels and reduce, for example, the risk of death in the event of a myocardial infarction . This is called vascular collaterality.
Finally, the heart itself adapts. During exercise, the contracting muscles crush the veins and return a lot of blood to the heart. The organ then takes on volume. With repeated exercise, it becomes more flexible, and therefore, it beats less quickly. However, all studies show that a heart that beats less quickly has a longer life expectancy.
“All studies show that a heart that beats less quickly has a longer life expectancy.”
Prof. François Carré, cardiologist and sports doctor at the Rennes CHRU
What type of physical activity to practice for our health?
First thing to remember: physical or sports activity has a beneficial effect on the whole body and not just on the heart. But for the latter, contrary to what was thought for a long time, endurance exercises alone are not enough. It should be combined with muscle strengthening exercises. The endurance exercises will facilitate the dilation of the vessels; muscle building, by increasing general muscle mass, will promote more blood return to the heart.
After 60 years, I also recommend flexibility and balance exercises. Activities like biking, Nordic walking or hiking in rough terrain combine both endurance and muscle building. Swimming and running are actually going to be good for endurance. To build muscle, you just have to go up and down the stairs as often as possible. But whatever physical activity you practice, the most important thing is to have fun. Otherwise, you are not going to persevere.
How often should we practice this activity?
The minimum is thirty minutes of physical activity every day. During these thirty minutes, which can be broken down into three times ten minutes, it is a matter of being slightly out of breath while being able to continue talking. This is what happens when we walk briskly or when riding a bicycle. This is the minimum necessary physical activity that we should all be doing.
The ideal would be, in addition, to practice physical activity three times a week for a period of thirty to forty-five minutes. These three weekly sessions are an integral part today of the treatment of all chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, moderate depression.
“As for children, they should be moving for at least an hour every day – and between 2 and 5 years old, three hours!”
Prof. François Carré
As for children, they should be moving for at least an hour every day – and between 2 and 5 years old, three hours! However, they are few to do so and unfortunately, the hours of sport practiced on Wednesday or on weekends do not make up for this lack. It’s every day that you have to move.
Are the benefits of physical activity sustainable?
Alas no! When you stop moving… in a few months, you’ve lost everything. If you were athletic in your youth, do not think you are protected if you do not activate more. But the good news is that getting into a physical activity or sport is beneficial regardless of your age.