Exercise helps recovery from heart disease and stroke

By June Shannon Policy News   |   23rd Jan 2020

Being active is key to the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease – new European Report

Physical activity can be the difference between people recovering from cardiovascular disease and returning to normal active life or continuing a life as a patient,” according to a new report on physical activity and heart health.

The report on physical activity policies for cardiovascular health, was launched this week by the European Heart Network (EHN) ; a European alliance of organisations dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke and supporting patients, of which the Irish Heart Foundation is a member.

According to the report , “it is never too late to start with physical activity, and any exercise is better than none – though more is better.”

The report stated that physical inactivity was responsible for approximately 330,000 cardiovascular deaths in Europe and increased the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by more than 20 per cent. However, in Europe, it is estimated that 25 per cent of women and 22 per cent of men are physically inactive.

The EHN report found that being active was beneficial for both healthy people and those living with cardiovascular disease and highlighted the under-use of policy measures to promote physical activity at a population-level to prevent cardiovascular disease.

" It is never too late to start with physical activity, and any exercise is better than none ,"

European Heart Network

Addressing policy leaders, the report recommended, “physical activity – and especially systematic exercise training – are effective means of CVD prevention, and critical components of promotion of good health more generally. However, the potential public health impact of physical activity is not maximised due to the high prevalence of sedentary lifestyle in most European populations.”

“Walking should be the primary mode of preventive and health-enhancing physical activity to be increased. Walking has been referred to as the ‘best buy in public health’. This is followed by cycling as, like walking, it can be integrated into daily lifestyles,” the report added.

In relation to people living with cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease and stroke, the EHN report underlined the importance of physical activity for secondary prevention (reduce the impact or severity of a disease once it is already diagnosed) of cardiovascular disease.

The report showed the effectiveness of physical activity in patients, highlighting the need for flexible, individualised and ‘menu-based’ programmes, tailored to the circumstances and needs of individual patients as part of cardiovascular rehabilitation.

It added that exercise based cardiac rehabilitation “appeared to be under-utilised, with insufficient policy actions being taken to integrate physical activity into normal care.”

“It does not have to be complex or over-demanding: even low levels of physical activity have health benefits and rehabilitation programmes can be undertaken at home,” the EHN stated.

"It is not enough to tell people to be more active. We need policies to create an environment where being active is easy, for example segregated cycle ways."

Janis Morrissey, Head of Health Promotion, Information and Training

The EHN report focuses on heart disease and stroke, but physical inactivity is also strongly associated with obesity, diabetes, poor mental health and some cancers.

The report concluded that regular physical activity plays a “critical role” in both preventing and treating cardiovascular disease and that “policy-makers should focus on ensuring physical activity is central to the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.”

Commenting Janis Morrissey Head of Health Promotion, Information and Training at the Irish Heart Foundation said that to a large extent, physical activity has been designed out of our lives and the world we live in actually encourages us to be inactive.

“It is not enough to tell people to be more active. We need policies to create an environment where being active is easy, for example segregated cycle ways. Not only does being active benefit the individual, there are also benefits to the population in terms of cleaner air, reduced use of fossil fuels, lower carbon footprints and greater social inclusion. As the National Physical Activity Plan for Ireland comes up for review, it is timely that this report has been published.”

For more information on ways to get more active please see here


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cardiovascular disease get active heart disease physical activity sedentary sedentary behaviour stroke

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