Heart, Health and Exercise
It’s finally February, and for many people, this is the time when their New Year’s resolutions start losing some of their resolve. Goals that were set only one short month ago begin to feel like a distant memory. Everyone needs extra incentive and inspiration to stick with our 2011 health and fitness goals, especially in the gray and gloom of February.
This year, use the health of your heart as a way to motivate yourself to stay on-board the health bandwagon. Every time you feel like skipping the gym, remember that the heart is a muscle, too. And like any other muscle, “if you don't use it, you lose it.” You need to stay active to keep your heart healthy and happy. Physical activity strengthens the heart, circulatory system and lungs, and can help protect against heart disease.
The Heart: a Short Anatomy Lesson
The heart is a muscular pump responsible for carrying blood throughout the body. A network of veins and arteries (blood vessels) are connected to the heart and carry blood throughout the body. The heart is vital to the proper functioning of this circulatory system. It collects blood from the body, sends it to the lungs, receives it back from the lungs, and then pumps it to the body. Exercising regularly is a vital component of maintaining a healthy heart. Cardiovascular exercise is like weight training for the heart. This is because during exercise, the heart has to work harder to deliver oxygen required to the working muscles. Through being challenged in this way, the heart becomes a stronger and more powerful muscle.
Exercise – the prescription for a healthy heart
I encourage my clients to incorporate two types of cardiovascular workouts into their lives.
1. More vigorous activity. Try to do 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic activity three or more days per week. For this type of workout, attempt to keep your heart rate between 60-85% of your maximum for the bulk of the workout. Examples: brisk walking, jogging, spinning classes or the elliptical machine.
2. “Lifestyle” activity In addition to engaging in more vigorous aerobic activity, try accumulating 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week. This could be walking to or from work, gardening or housework. The primary goal of “lifestyle” activity is to create a daily routine that is composed of more than sitting at a desk or on the couch.
3. Make sure you work at your own level First, always check with your doctor before you start any exercise program. Second, always work at a level that’s appropriate for your current fitness goals. If you haven’t gone biking for years, don’t attempt to bike 30 kilometers all in one day. Start with 10 or 15 minutes of any given activity and slowly build up your endurance and intensity over time. Also, if you’ve been inactive for a while, be cautious of the activity you choose as your method to get back into shape. Try starting with less strenuous activities first, such as walking or a beginner’s Aqua-Fit class.
Tips for Fitting it all in
1. Make it a family affair. Play soccer or go biking with your family.
2. Put together a miniature home gym. All you need is a resistance band and a ball. This way, you don’t have to spend the time going to and from the gym.
3. Find a gym buddy to make exercise more fun, and to help you stay accountable.
4. Really busy schedule? Fit in short five to ten minute workouts several times throughout your day. Skip for ten minutes when you first wake up, park your car further away from your destination, or take a short brisk walk around the block after dinner. Those short activities can add up to thirty minutes of exercise before you know it.
All Physical Activity Adds up!
Need even more motivation to exercise? Regular physical activity will help reduce your resting heart rate, normalize your resting blood pressure, improve blood flow, reduce risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis, and improve your ability to perform daily activities. All that and you’ll feel better, too!