Exercise Is Essential to Cardiovascular Health

Hong Kong College of Cardiology: 80 percent of cardiovascular disease patients did not exercise sufficiently.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has left most people indoors, and many find it hard to maintain their workout routines.

According to a survey by the Hong Kong College of Cardiology, 80 percent of cardiovascular disease patients did not exercise sufficiently. In comparison, 30 percent of adults have reduced their exercise frequency since the pandemic.

President of Hong Kong College of Cardiology, Dr. Andy Chan Wai-kwong, shared that the death rate from heart disease has increased during the pandemic. Dr. Chan called on the public to exercise more at home while staying in to improve heart health.

According to the Center for Health Protection, 6,561 people died from heart disease in Hong Kong in 2020. The number accounted for 13 percent of the total deaths, of which nearly 60 percent died of coronary heart disease.

Since the pandemic, the heart disease mortality rate rose to a 10-year high in 2021, with 89 people dying of heart disease per 100,000 people.

The Hong Kong College of Cardiology conducted a questionnaire with 354 cardiology consulted or follow-up patients in July and August 2022. The college obtained 266 valid replies. Of the 266, 70 percent belonged to men, with more than 65 percent being overweight or obese.

How the Pandemic Affects Heart Health

Dr. Chan revealed that the impact of the pandemic on respondents was mixed.

During the pandemic, 30 percent of adults were heavier than they were before the pandemic. Another 30 percent, however, weigh lower than they had before the coronavirus outbreak.

Forty percent of the participants used to consume unhealthy, oily, and salty takeaway meals before the pandemic. The relief was that almost 30 percent ate vegetables and fruit regularly.

Thirty percent of interviewees had less desirable living habits during the pandemic, while 40 percent experienced elevated stress.

Regarding sleep quality, 30 percent suffered from worse sleep hygiene.

As for exercise, the survey showed that 30 percent of the adults exercised even less during the lockdown, but only 20 percent worked out more, which was consistent with other similar local studies.

The respondents expressed that the reason for their lack of exercise was due to recreation and sports centers being closed due to the policy of COVID-19 measure. Some interviewees said it was challenging to resume exercise routines again after stopping, while others couldn’t play sports in groups due to social distancing restrictions.

The study displayed 80 percent having insufficient exercise, of which 25 percent had no aerobic exercise.

Why Exercising is Essential to Cardiovascular Health

The Hong Kong College of Cardiology cited recommendations from The World Health Organization and the American College of Sports Medicine that grown-ups should conduct at least 150 minutes of medium to high-intensity aerobic exercises every week.

Regarding high-intensity workouts, they should be at least 75 minutes, with a minimum of two days of muscle training, particularly in the chest, back, and upper thighs.

Adolescents between 6 to 17 should do twice as much exercise as adults. Children below 17 should conduct at least 60 minutes of medium-intensity aerobic activity every week and spend three days at least for high-intensity cardio workouts.

The survey revealed that less than 20 percent of adults were aware of the numbers suggested by the World Health Organization.

Lower the Risk of Illness and Mortality Rate

Dr. Leung Tat-chi, Godwin president-elect of the College of Cardiology, stated, “Many international studies proved that regular workouts prevent and control the ‘three highs.’”

The three highs are high blood pressure, high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), and high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia).

Exercising lowers the cardiovascular disease mortality rate by 67 percent, double that of those who sit stationery and long hours. Cardiovascular disease patients reduce anxiety and depression by moving their bodies.

Leung referred to a Korean study of 200,000 people, which showed that active people are less likely to contract the coronavirus and reduce the chance of getting severely ill by half

Do/Don’t Wear a Mask during Workouts?

Many people are uncomfortable wearing masks to work out. Senior Lecturer at The Education University of Hong Kong Department of Health and Physical Education, Louie Lobo Hung-tak, expressed, “Working out with masks tends to feel more difficult due to ventilation.”

The studies showed that wearing masks does not affect physicalities like heart rate or blood oxygen. The covers would only affect physical performance in high and extreme-intensity exercises. It is also safe for cardiovascular disease patients to exercise with their masks.

Watch Yourself During Workouts

Leung reminded the public, “Cardiovascular disease patients should pay attention to their physical condition when exercising. Many patients mistakenly believe that they should not exercise or they might die during it. That is not true. It is safe for stable patients to do exercises for their heart health.”

Lee also mentioned heart disease patients with angina or asthma should not exercise. “Such patients should consult their physicians for the time being, as a coronary intervention may be required.”

Patients with high blood pressure with resting readings above 180 should also monitor and stabilize the blood pressure level before any exercise.

Leung agreed that moderate-intensity workouts would be suitable for stable heart disease patients, but they first should consult their doctor and conduct electrocardiogram tests.

Leung also recommended participating in cardiac rehabilitation to work out slowly and gradually, which would help reduce recurrence and improve their quality of life.

Options For Patients With Three Highs

Leung suggested patients with three highs could try power walking, swimming, or cycling. But older, senior patients should conduct more balance training, such as Tai Chi, gentle squats, and yoga. “It will help sustain elderly’s activity and prevent accidental falls.” The doctor explained.

Indoor Training to Strengthen Muscles and Heart

Moving gross motor muscle groups (such as arms, legs, and torso) improves blood circulation and heart functions.

Simple Home Exercise For Any Age or Condition

Dr. Lobo emphasized that sitting down too long negatively impacts blood circulation. He suggested, “For every 30 minutes of sitting, you should get up and move for one minute. He suggested, “ A simple way to work out at home is to lean your body on a chair or table for support. Then swing your leg back and forth one at a time.”

Dr. emphasized that simple movement trains arm muscles while stretching the arms and back. People can easily practice during breaks in the office or at home watching TV.