Running and Your Heart

What You Need To Know About Running and Your Heart

Dr Shrilla Banerjee, Consultant Cardiologist at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital

Running and your heart

I am a busy Cardiologist and Mum of two.  I work full-time in the NHS, at East Surrey and St Thomas’s Hospitals.  I see private patients at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital.  I also work as a Consultant Advisor to the Civil Aviation Authority.  

I run 3-4 mornings a week, before work, and have started my training for the Run Reigate 10k on Sunday 16th September.  If I can do it, anyone can! One of my most inspiring patients, who has encouraged me to start running again, told me that once you have run 10 minutes, the rest is easy. He was so right!

Running is one of the most natural forms of exercise, requiring no equipment – just a pair of trainers!  Running is good for you for a number of reasons, but remember, everything in moderation!

From the heart’s point of view, we see immediate benefits in lowering stress levels and subsequently improving blood pressure levels, and risks of developing diabetes.  ‘Bad’ cholesterol (LDL) levels reduce in those taking regular exercise and the good stuff (HDL) gets more plentiful.

The heart is a simple organ…but basically just a big, important muscle.  When you look at athletes you see nice well-toned muscles and essentially the same happens to the heart when you exercise.  Pretty much every heart condition [excluding some inherited heart conditions (cardiomyopathy) and acute heart infections (myocarditis)] improve with gradual, regular exercise.

So, the best way to prevent the development of heart disease is to take regular exercise. Also, follow a healthy Mediterranean-type diet.  Think of replacing the potatoes, bread and pasta in your diet with green leafy salads, dressed with olive oil and pepper.

What is the best exercise for the heart? Running is one of the recommended aerobic exercises, along with swimming and cycling. You should also consider some resistance training which can include body weight exercises (such as squats and push-ups) or moderate weightlifting.  This will help build more lean muscle, making your body a more efficient machine, burning up the calories eaten more rapidly.

The ideal and recommended targets for weekly exercise are 5 times per week aerobic (sweat-inducing!) exercise and twice-weekly muscle-building.

So if you are thinking of Run Reigate, give it a go!  If you have any concerns talk to your GP or Cardiologist to get the green light. Don’t just think about it… do it!!!

Come and join me in the Run Reigate Half Marathon, 10k or 5k.  Your heart will thank you for it!!