Exercise and Heart Health

heart health exercise

They go together like peas and carrots.
It’s no secret that exercise is beneficial to our bodies. When you think about the logistics of what happens in your body when you exercise, it makes a lot of sense that your heart is highly affected. Aerobic exercise means that oxygen is pumped to the working muscles. How is it pumped? Your heart. It’s called cardio for a reason 🙂

There is a large population of people who are intimidated or confused about where to start with cardio exercise. Some people hear the world cardio and immediately think “I’m not in good enough shape for that” or “I’ll hurt myself and do more harm than good”. It’s natural to be afraid of trying something new. But when your heart is concerned, it’s even more frightening to think about what heart disease can do to you.

So for those who are new to this whole exercise thing – you are not alone. Get out your notebooks and start brainstorming new goals.

Let’s review the American Heart Association‘s Recommendations for Exercise.

Moderate Intensity Exercise:

heart health exercise

Let’s dissect this to make it easier to grasp

  • 30 minutes. That’s it! 30 minutes out of a whole 1,440 minutes in a day. I bet you spend more time sitting on the couch, or checking social media, or just doing nothing! We are looking for 30 minutes of NON-stop activity. Getting your heart rate elevated for 30 minutes does wonders for you heart
  • moderate-intensity aerobic activity. There is that aerobic word again. That means cardio! Here are some examples of moderate-intensity cardio (and NO, sprinting is not one of them):
    • brisk walking (those mall walkers know where it’s at!)
    • yoga (namaste)
    • cycling (somewhere under 10 miles/hour)
    • water aerobics
    • doubles tennis
    • ballroom dancing
    • gardening (raking, digging, weeding)
    • playing with kids 🙂
  • 5 days a week. It’s totally doable. 150 minutes a week is a small price to pay for a healthier heart. I like to exercise daily during the week, and leave my weekends free for family time. But what works for me may not work for you. If exercise doesn’t come naturally to you, make sure you schedule in time. There is no excuse not to!

OR Vigorous Intensity Exercise:

vigorous intenstiy exercise

If your experience with exercise is higher, you should go for the vigorous intensity.

  • Increased cardio load means fewer minutes of exercise, fewer days a week.
  • Examples of vigorous aerobic activity are as follows:
    • running, jogging, or a real race pace of walking (think power walking)
    • swimming laps
    • cycling (10 mph or higher)
    • aerobic dancing (think: zumba)
    • pilates
    • singles tennis
    • uphill hiking with backpack
    • basketball/soccer
  • 3 days a week! intensify your workout and you can decrease a number of times/week you do it. It’s a win-win!
  • NOTE: If you are looking to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, increase your vigorous activity to 40 minutes, 3-4 times a week.

AND – Don’t Forget to ADD weight training to your cardio:

exercise

 

Don’t forget to add in some weight training. Your local gym will have a large variety of weights from 1 pound and up. Also, you can purchase resistance bands and exercise at home. Don’t have a gym membership? You can use your own body for resistance (push-ups, sit-ups, wall sits, etc). Muscle strength will not only help you carry the groceries in from the car, but it will make your cardio exercises easier, your core stronger and decrease your chances of getting hurt.

START SOMEWHERE.

It can be intimidating to some. Exercise is challenging. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would be doing it. As long as you understand the real benefits it has on your body, hopefully, that will fuel your fire to start today.

If you are new to exercise, don’t worry and don’t let that stop you. Even if you have been living a sedentary lifestyle for years, you can do this. There is no shame in starting small. If you think 30 minutes is too long, start with a goal or 15 or 20 minutes and work your way up to 30 minutes. This is not an all-or-nothing thing. You got this!

If you are an experienced athlete, I challenge you to try a new form of exercise. It’s easy to get in a rut, doing the same thing over and over. Trying a new yoga class or swimming laps can work different muscle groups and maybe you can find a new favorite activity.