Keeping your heart healthy is vital to preventing heart disease. Luckily, however, there are a number of things you can do to keep your heart in top form. One of the best things you can do to improve heart health is to get plenty of regular exercise.
The Benefits of Exercise
Exercise offers your body a number of benefits, including:
- Decrease in Heart Disease Risk Factors: Exercise not only lowers your risk for diabetes but also reduces blood pressure, lowers body weight and reduces a person’s percentage of body fat, all of which are important to preventing heart disease.
- Improved Heart Health: Exercise helps the heart and cardiovascular system work more effectively and efficiently, reduces your risk of dying from heart disease and decreases your risk of heart failure.
- Increased Strength: Exercise keeps your joints and muscles strong and improves balance and posture, reducing your risk of injury and bone fractures.
- Increased Well-Being: Exercise increases self-esteem and reduces your chances of suffering from depression and anxiety.
Heart-Healthy Exercise Plans
Before beginning an exercise plan, make sure you talk with your doctor. She will be able to tailor a heart-healthy exercise plan to fit your needs, fitness level, age, overall health, etc. In addition, she can help you find an exercise plan that you’ll actually enjoy.
For maximum heart health, you should aim to exercise at least 30 to 40 minutes on most days of the week. If you find it hard to exercise for an extended period of time or if you can’t fit a 30-minute workout into your day, you can divide your workout into three 10-minute sessions.
Aerobic exercises are the most effective at working the heart and elevating the heart rate. Aerobic exercises include walking briskly, jogging and swimming.
When exercising, be sure to incorporate the following into your routine:
- Warm-Up: Warm-ups help ease your body into exercise and can help prevent injury. Try to warm-up for approximately five minutes. Good warm-up exercises include stretching and walking.
- Conditioning: Conditioning is your main exercise and will vary in intensity depending on your fitness level. Conditioning should be done most days of the week for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Cool-Down: The cool-down phase of your workout allows your body to recover from the conditioning phase and should last for at least five minutes. To cool down, try your conditioning activity at a lower intensity and then try to incorporate some gentle stretches. During the cool-down period, your heart rate should return to normal.
Heart-Healthy Exercise Tips
Many people think exercise has to happen in the gym. This is far from the truth: You can exercise and improve your heart health at home, in the office and even when you are on vacation!
At home, try the following heart-healthy exercises:
- Do lunges while talking on the phone.
- Go for a five- to 10-minute walk before each meal.
- Park farther away from store entrances when you are running errands.
- Rather than driving, walk or ride a bike to run errands.
- Ride a stationary bike or walk on a treadmill while watching television.
Use these exercise tips to incorporate fitness into your workday:
- Join a gym near your office to make exercise more convenient.
- Start a company sports team, such as a softball team or a bowling team.
- Take the stairs instead of using the elevator.
- Take a short walk around the parking lot during your lunch hour.
- Walk to coworkers’ offices to speak with them instead of phoning or e-mailing.
If you’re going on vacation or a business trip, keep these tips in mind to promote exercise:
- Don’t use a vacation as an excuse to abandon exercising. Try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible.
- Pack dumbbells, a jump rope or a yoga mat to allow you to exercise in your room.
- Stay at a hotel that has a gym or swimming pool.
- Stay at a hotel that is close to a park or another area where you can walk.
By making a few changes to your daily routine, you can greatly improve the health of your heart. Remember, however, to discuss an appropriate exercise plan with your doctor before you begin exercising.
American Heart Association (2007). Exercise for Your Health. Retrieved October 31, 2007, from American Heart Association Web site: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=2155.
Cleveland Clinic (2004). Physical Activity in Your Daily Life. Retrieved October 31, 2007, from Cleveland Clinic Web site: http://www.clevelandclinic.org/heartcenter/pub/guide/prevention/exercise/exercisehrt.htm.