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It's a well-known fact that engaging in regular physical activity can improve your health and well-being and actually reduce your risk of developing or dying from some of the most common diseases, including colon cancer, heart disease, and high-blood pressure. Regular exercise has also been shown to build healthy bones, joints, and muscles. Now, a new study published in the journal Cell, is showing that physical activity may also activate a genetic program that leads the heart to grow as heart muscle cells divide.

The findings, say the study researchers, may have implications for patients suffering from heart disease who are unable to exercise by providing them with new treatment that can increase their heart size, as well as provide biological insights into the heart's potential for muscle regeneration. More studies will be needed to confirm these findings and provide additional evidence that exercise leads to a rise in cell proliferation in the heart muscle.

Get Moving for Heart Health

The immediate takeaway is another reason to incorporate exercise into your life.

Maintaining a regular exercise routine can strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system, lower blood pressure, and improve heart failure symptoms. Before starting any exercise program, be sure to check with your doctor to determine how much and what kind of exercise is best for you. In general, you should aim for between 20 and 30 minutes of some aerobic activity most days of the week.

Aerobic exercises include:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Jumping rope
  • Bicycling (either stationary or outdoor)
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Skating
  • Rowing

Some precautions to keep in mind include:

  • Stop exercising if you experience chest pain, feel weak, have shortness of breath, or become dizzy or lightheaded. If you're concerned about the symptoms or the symptoms persist, call your doctor.
  • Don't exercise if you're not feeling well or have a fever and wait a few days after all symptoms disappear to resume your activity.
  • Stop exercising if you experience a rapid or irregular heartbeat or if you have heart palpitations. If your heart rate is above 120 to 150 beats per minute after 15 minutes of rest, call your doctor.

Medical News Today. "How Exercise Grows a Healthy Heart."