Imagine you’re at a concert. As the musicians take the stage, each artist picks up their instruments and begins to perform their specific piece of the song. When each performer contributes the correct notes and rhythms, the band can create a beautiful song all together. At some points, the guitarist might have a solo to showcase his skills, or maybe the singer and the pianist might work together on a duet. Although each performer in a band or orchestra has their own role to play, the music that moves us is the result of all the instruments and musicians working together.
This isn’t too far off from the way our body functions, where our systems perform specific roles, but must also work together to keep the entire body healthy. One example of two independent systems working together to keep us healthy is the cardiovascular and the hearing system. These two systems perform two distinct functions to promote health in the body, but together, they support one another and your overall well-being.
Just as a band frequently practices to fine-tune and improve both their individual skills and their overall performance, you can also regularly practice healthy habits that exercise each system and keep them working well together. By incorporating low-impact exercises and activities into your daily routine, you’re taking proactive action to improve your health now and for the future.
Cardiovascular health, at its most basic, focuses on the wellness of your heart, surrounding blood vessels and the blood that’s pumped through it. In a properly functioning system, the heart pumps oxygen out through the blood vessels that carry nutrient-rich blood out to the rest of the body and return de-oxygenated blood back to the heart. While all systems of the body play their own vital role in maintaining health, the cardiovascular system’s constant transportation of oxygen means that every cell and organ is getting the nutrients that it needs to function.
Maintaining a healthy diet and mitigating or eliminating risk factors like smoking are some of doctors’ top suggestions for a healthy cardiovascular system, but exercise and regular movement are also great ways to strengthen your heart. Not only does consistent activity help ward off potentially dangerous conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar, but it also improves the muscles’ capabilities to pull oxygen out of the blood. This means the heart doesn’t need to work as hard to pump blood throughout the body, putting less stress on the organ.
Having a healthy heart supports multiple systems in the body, but it’s particularly important for your hearing health. You might think that the cardiovascular and auditory systems seem like two entirely separate parts of the body, so what does your heart have to do with your hearing?
Put simply, it all comes down to blood flow. When your heart pumps blood throughout your body, your ears are one of the recipients of the oxygen that’s carried within it. In the inner ear, the cochlea is a spiral-shaped organ that’s most responsible for hearing. This piece of the ear contains delicate hair cells that are integral in converting the sounds picked up by your ears into electrical impulses that your brain uses to recognize sound. Poor blood circulation prevents these hair cells from receiving the oxygen they need to function properly, resulting in damage or destruction. Since the cells can’t regenerate, damage results in hearing loss. Vascular issues, like poor blood flow, narrowed arteries and atypical blood vessels, can also cause pulsatile tinnitus, which often sounds like thumping or whooshing, similar to the pulsing of blood throughout the body.
In the same way that cardiovascular exercise boosts the muscles’ ability to take nutrients from circulated blood, the benefits of exercise also apply to your hearing. Recent studies have noted a positive correlation between hearing ability and cardiovascular exercise. In adults who were monitored after riding a stationary bike, researchers concluded that individuals with higher cardiovascular fitness levels had better hearing, especially if they were 50 and over . Not only do low-impact exercises improve your hearing with increased blood flow to the ears, but exercise can also be useful in preventing the balance issues and cognitive decline that are associated with hearing loss.
When it comes to recommended exercise per week, the American Heart Association advises getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity to maintain your cardiovascular health, which is about 30 minutes of exercise per day.
These physical activity recommendations can sound daunting or difficult to work into your weekly schedule, but exercise doesn’t have to be extreme. In fact, low-impact exercises that are more gentle on your body and carry less risk of injury are just as useful for daily movement and are often already a part of your normal routine.
Exercises that are gentle on the joints and can be performed in a fluid motion are categorized as “low-impact.” This type of movement puts less stress on the joints, making it a viable option for all fitness levels and preferable for many people who have pre-existing injuries, limited mobility or other conditions. Let’s explore a few low-impact activities and exercises that are healthy for your heart and your ears without being too hard on your body.
Get moving in your neighborhood! Walking is a low-impact cardio activity that can be done throughout the day and at a pace that is comfortable for you. Walking briskly for at least 20-30 minutes can get your blood flowing and your heart pumping blood better throughout your body. Even if you’re not ready to jump right into “brisk” walks, making a regular habit of walking will allow you to pick up the pace over time.
It might not seem like a traditional exercise, but gardening is a great option to turn a hobby into a healthy habit. Moving soil, planting, pulling weeds and tending to your plants offers your body opportunities to move in a safe way while growing your garden.
Meditation has been a useful tool for developing mindfulness for centuries, but did you know it’s also a useful activity for preventing hearing loss? By taking relaxed and intentional breathes, you are increasing the blood flow to your brain as well as becoming more attuned to the sounds around you.
If you’re looking for an exercise that is very gentle on your joints but still gets your heart pumping, swimming is a great option. Whether you’re swimming laps or participating in water aerobics, this exercise not only improves your cardiovascular health, but it also offers other healthy benefits like boosting your mood, increasing brain function and creating opportunities for social engagement.
No matter if you’re pedaling around the block or enjoying your time on a stationary bike, riding a bike is a great way to get your heart pumping, especially for those ages 50 and up. Because it is so gentle on the joints, it’s an exercise that can be done for years. Biking has also been proven to be advantageous in improving mental function .
By practicing yoga, you’re not only improving your flexibility and muscle tone, but you’re also increasing circulation to your ears. As you practice your poses, be sure to focus on deep breathing to facilitate proper blood flow and oxygen throughout your entire body. Yoga is also beneficial for more than just preventing hearing loss—it can also be a helpful tool in managing tinnitus symptoms related to stress and offers specific positions that are useful in treating the condition.
No matter which low-impact activities you choose, make sure hearing aid cleaning si also a part of your post-workout routine. Here are some hearing aid cleaning tips to keep in mind:
No matter how you work out, incorporating consistent movement and low-impact activities into your daily routine goes a long way to developing healthy habits for both your heart and your hearing. To learn more about how you can take steps to improve your hearing and your overall health, schedule an appointment at your local Miracle-Ear.