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Published on April 19, 2017

Cardiovascular Boot Camp: Exercise Your Heart

You know your heart is a muscle, so why wouldn’t you approach it with the same mentality as building up your biceps or quads? It needs exercise too!

In fact, with more than 600,000 people perishing from heart disease in the United States each year, your heart is probably the most important muscle needing conditioning.

The most difficult part for many is getting started and knowing how much is enough to make a difference.

Daily Activity + Exercise

“A major step to reducing your risk factors for heart disease is to increase both your daily physical activity and your exercise activity,” says Rhonda Becker, Bryan LifePointe exercise specialist.

Physical activity is anything that makes the body move, such as climbing stairs, gardening, or doing housework.

The most effective exercise for improving heart health is aerobic exercise, which uses large muscle groups like arms and legs in a rhythmic, continuous nature (think walking or bicycling).

Beginning Steps: Warm-Up

“The first thing I advise is to make sure you are doing proper aerobic exercise,” says Becker. You don’t have to invest in a bunch of equipment; a pair of good shoes is all you need to walk or run.

Start with a warm-up of low intensity activity for about five minutes. Becker likens it to warming up your car when it’s cold outside to prevent damage to the engine.

Conditioning Phase

For best results, remember these four points in your conditioning phase: frequency, intensity, duration and type of activity.

Frequency: You should exercise most days of the week.

Intensity (how hard you exercise): This can be measured in several ways. With the target heart rate method, the general recommendation for a healthy person is 60-85 percent of age-predicted maximum (220 minus your age). For those who’d like less math with their workout, the Borg scale has you rate how hard you think you’re working. During moderate exercise, your exertion should feel fairly light to somewhat hard. During vigorous exercise, somewhat hard to hard. You can also use the talk test. “You should only be able to speak one full sentence when exercising,” says Becker. “If you can only gasp a few words, you’re exercising too hard. If you can carry on a marathon conversation or sing along with the radio, you’re exercising too lightly.”

Duration: To get the most benefit, you should exercise aerobically 30-45 minutes most days of the week. Break it up into 10-15 minute sessions if you can’t do 30 minutes all at once. Do what you can and increase duration gradually.

Type of activity: There are many to choose from! Remember, your activity of choice must utilize large muscle groups and be continuous. It’s best to vary it up, too. A combination of walking, swimming and cycling strengthens several muscle groups and will prevent you from becoming bored.

Don’t Forget to Cool Down

Cool down does not mean sit down! In fact, you should never stand still, sit or lie down immediately after exercise. Slowly decrease the intensity of your activity over the course of five minutes.

It’s Never Too Late (or Early) to Start

“Exercise is such an important part of life in general, but particularly when it comes to matters of the heart,” says Becker. “Plaque can start accumulating in the arteries as early as childhood and adolescence, so the more you can do now, the better off you will be in the future. And, if you already have heart disease, don’t despair. You can always avoid another heart event.”


To listen to an interview with Rhonda Becker, Bryan LifePointe exercise specialist, follow this link: Move It For A Healthy Heart

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