Exercise. I can't think of another lifestyle modification with such immediate and long-lasting benefits for your health and well-being. Even simple hearthealthy exercises strengthen your heart, circulatory system, bones and muscles; build stamina; and improve your state of mind.
Top 10 Reasons for HeartHealthy Exercise
Your heart will love you for it. Your heart will become more efficient, maintaining the same level of output with fewer beats per minute.
You'll minimize your risk for stroke.
You'll increase your muscle strength and restore your range of motion (flexibility).
You'll rev up your metabolism and burn calories, thereby losing weight.
You'll beat depression. Exercise releases endorphins and triggers release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which lifts your mood.
Your blood sugar will go down, improving your body's regulation of insulin.
You'll age more gracefully and look and act younger than your years.
You'll fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply, improving your concentration and your memory.
You'll feel more amorous. Exercise not only increases your growth hormones, it improves your self-image, making you feel better about yourself.
Aerobic Movement: The Foundation
Did you know that 30 minutes of hearthealthy exercise will keep your metabolic rate up for another hour? So the longer you exercise, the greater the benefits.
You don't need a lot of fancy equipment. Nor do you need to join a health club. Just put on a pair of comfortable lace-up shoes and start walking.
If you haven't been active for a while, start out easy—just 10 minutes a day. (Please consult with your doctor before you initiate any exercise program.)
Your goal should be to add five minutes a week to your walking regimen, building up to 30 minutes total, five days a week. If you can devote more time to exercise, 45 to 60 minutes a day, so much the better!
Walk with friends to make it fun. If the weather is bad, head over to your local mall and get moving!
I'm a big fan of dancing. It's great exercise and reduces stress at the same time. You don't have to work up a sweat or push yourself until you're out of breath. Find your own rhythm and "go with the flow."
Dynamic hearthealthy exercise enhances well-being and puts a spring in your step. Add a bit of stretching and yoga and spice it up with a bit of weight training to create a great exercise session.
Here's one way to get started: Put on your favorite music, warm up with a good stretch and some deep breathing, then walk for 10 to 15 minutes. Mix it up with some free weights, finish with a little yoga and stretching and cool down.
Weight Training: Tone and Strengthen
I wholeheartedly endorse adding weights to your hearthealthy exercise regimen to promote a healthy heart and bones.
Not only does strength training increase endurance, it can promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and it enhance your sense of well-being.
Some researchers believe that strength training may also reduce subsequent cardiac events and the risk of sudden death.
And for those who are frustrated with the limitations heart disease has imposed upon their active lifestyle, strength training is a way to fight back. Many of my cardiac patients have discovered that they don't have to sit in the rocking chair for the rest of their lives!
Be alert to warning signs that you may be doing too much exercise. If you experience any of the following, stop immediately:
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Shortness of breath (unable to carry on a conversation)
- Jaw pain
- Arm tingling or numbness
- Tight feeling in the lungs (bronchospasm)
Whatever form of hearthealthy exercise you choose, learn to listen to your body and be aware of any symptoms that come up during exercise or up to an hour afterward. If you feel ill, stop exercising and rest. If symptoms persist after three to five minutes of rest, seek medical attention immediately.
Thinking About Running?
I'm often asked about the health benefits of jogging. I advise against strenuous exercise like jogging or running, especially if you're just starting a hearthealthy exercise program. Studies have shown a connection between heart attacks and sudden exertion. Plus, the stress that jogging places on joints can aggravate mild arthritis and lead to premature cartilage deterioration.
Conversely, moderate exercise has been shown to reduce the long-term risk of coronary artery disease. The Nurses Health Study found that women who walked briskly at least three hours a week achieved results equivalent to jogging or aerobic dancing.