We're focusing a lot of energy and information on the relationship between what you eat and what you do and heart health in this issue of My Healthy Lifestyle. Regarding what you do – or really, what you don't do sometimes – we all know that an inactive lifestyle is one of the top risks for heart health. We also know, if we're living in this world, that the demands of work, family and the rest of life make it difficult to get the exercise we need.
But given the importance of regular exercise as a critical part of reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease while simultaneously improving your emotional outlook, it's essential to make it a priority. If you're still wondering why, take a look at the list below:
Regular exercise can:
- Strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system
- Improve your circulation and help your body use oxygen better
- Improve your symptoms of congestive heart failure
- Increase energy so you can do more activities without becoming tired or short of breath
- Increase endurance
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve muscle tone and strength
- Improve balance and joint flexibility
- Strengthen bones
- Help reduce body fat and help you reach and stay at a healthy weight
- Help reduce stress, tension, anxiety, and depression
- Boost self-image and self-esteem
- Improve sleep
- Make you feel more relaxed and rested
- Make you look fit and feel healthy
Exercise for Your Heart
Your heart healthy exercise plan should include both aerobic exercise and anaerobic exercise. Aerobic (or cardio) exercises, such as walking, swimming, and biking, strengthen your heart and lungs by improving your body's ability to use oxygen. The stronger your heart, the more efficient it is at pumping blood to the rest of your body. Over time, regular aerobic exercise can also help lower your blood pressure and improve your breathing.
Anaerobic exercises, such as strength or weight training, help you build muscle. Having more muscle can help strengthen your immune system and increase your metabolism. That way, you can burn more calories even when you're resting. That's why it is important to make weight training part of your exercise program at least two days a week, and rest in between to give your muscles time to recover.
10 Facts You May Not Have Known About Exercise
Get motivated to work out with these fun facts about some of the best exercises for heart health:
1. Walking is a weight-bearing aerobic exercise that's very affordable — the only thing you need is a good pair of running shoes that give you proper support, flexibility and cushioning and compensate for any stride problems you might have. Note that shoe manufacturers generally put their best performance features into running shoes while walking shoes are sometimes designed with style in mind. But of all the criteria, the most important is comfort – otherwise you probably won't use the shoes for their intended purpose. Once you're set up with the right shoes you can walk pretty much anywhere, whether you're taking a stroll outdoors around the neighborhood, a local trail, hiking on the weekend or using a treadmill indoors. Did you know…on average, every minute you walk extends your life by one and a half to two minutes?
2. Swimming is a great aerobic exercise to incorporate into your fitness routine. The advantage of water-based exercise is that it doesn't stress your joints so you don't have to worry about problems later in life – at least not from that form of exercise. Did you know…according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, swimming is the second most popular sports activity in the United States?
3. Cycling is an excellent type of cardio exercise that greatly benefits your heart without putting stress on your back, hips, knees, and ankles. Did you know…according to Bikes Belong, a bicycle industry group, the health benefits of cycling are 20 times greater than the safety risks?
4. Zumba, the Latin-inspired dance fitness program, is a great cardio workout. You can burn as many as 1,000 calories in an hour-long Zumba class if you really move to the music and get your heart pumping.
Did you know…Zumba was created in the mid-1990s when fitness instructor Alberto "Beto" Perez went to teach a group aerobics class and forgot his music. He improvised, using the salsa and merengue tapes he had in his backpack, and a craze was born. You may also not have known that Zumba classes are one of the free or low cost wellness and fitness opportunities that are available to Riverside employees.
5. Jumping rope is a terrific aerobic exercise. It not only burns lots of calories, but is also a great way to improve your coordination. Plus, a high-quality jump rope is an inexpensive piece of exercise equipment that can last for a long time. Did you know…jumping rope involves almost every muscle in your body?
6. Inline skating is a low-impact aerobic activity that not only strengthens your heart muscle, but also improves your lung capacity and can help you lose weight. Just be sure to wear properly fitting skates and protective gear. Did you know…60 minutes of inline skating burns almost as many calories as running, according to the American Council on Exercise?
7. Yoga combines stretching, breathing, and relaxation — all of which can benefit your heart. Stress is a major risk factor for heart disease, but practicing yoga regularly can help you reduce stress and lower your risk for heart disease. Did you know…yoga is thought to have started in India approximately 5,000 to 6,000 years ago so it has a lot of history going for it … and a lot of success stories?
AND… Did you know…that you can take free yoga class on Monday and Tuesday nights on the Riverside Regional Medical Center campus? All classes are free and open to Riverside employees and their family or friends. For more information contact Angie Claud, (757) 594-2772. Wear comfortable clothing and bring your yoga mat.
Mondays - 5:15pm – 6:30pm
Annex D Conference Room, Riverside Regional Medical Center
Tuesdays - 5:15pm – 6:30pm
Conference Room 2, first floor, Riverside Warwick Conference Center, 420 Warwick Boulevard, Building 6
8. Resistance bands help to stretch and tone your muscles. Attach them to furniture, doorknobs, or chairs and then stretch out the bands. Make a routine of pulling them down, using them to rotate your shoulders, and while extending your arms and legs. Did you know…a small study from the University of Valencia showed that for sedentary middle-aged women, resistance bands may be just as valuable as weight machines when training to get back into shape?
9. Weight training can increase the high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, in your blood that helps protect your arteries from plaque buildup. If you've never lifted weights, start slow. A personal trainer can show you how to use proper form and even if you don't maintain the training relationship it's a good – and safe – way to begin. Did you know …free weights build muscle mass faster than weight machines? That's because your muscles must balance free weights on their own, without assistance from the machine.
10. Interval training is an ideal cardio exercise because it combines aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Interval training involves alternating short bursts of intense activity, such as sprinting, with a less-intense form of the same activity, such as jogging or walking. Next time you're walking outdoors for exercise, try sprinting from one streetlight to the next and then walking until you reach a cross street. Then do it again. Did you know…people in Sweden refer to interval training as fartlek, which means "speed play?" OK, you're not likely to use that particular information but at least you learned a kind of funny foreign word.
Some tips to help you start a heart healthy exercise plan
- 1. Aerobic exercises done 30 minutes a day is excellent for increasing your heart rate. Climbing the stairs, a brisk walk, elliptical trainers or treadmills, anything to get your heart rate up. Nintendo's Wii System also has several fun games such as Wii Sports or Wii Fit Step Aerobics – and it's great exercise you can do with family.
2. Any moderate-intensity exercises, such as swimming, jogging, Pilates and yoga, are good. Exercising your heart muscle means exercising your body. And that can include everything from a gym to just walking.
3. If time is an issue (consider yourself lucky if it isn't) then fit shorter but more frequent periods of time, like 5-10 minutes several times a day throughout your day. Take the stairs, park your car further away from the door, and definitely count in those house chores such as mowing the lawn, vacuuming, or a short brisk walk at lunch or for a break.
- 4. If you already do a vigorous aerobic routine or are enrolled in an exercise class, then three days a week for 20 minutes a day is a good rule of thumb and that's really a minimum.
5. For adults who are 65 and older or anyone with chronic conditions or limited mobility, you need the same amount of exercise as younger people – the activity can be less intense. Use good judgment and definitely talk with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
- 6. Strength training is a great complement to aerobic training and helps to prevent age-related bone and muscle-mass losses. Keep in mind that strength training doesn't increase heart rate but it does increase stamina. Use it to target specific areas where muscle tone is needed but don't forget the other muscle groups.
7. With any plan, start strength training slowly and build up to heavier weights and repetitions especially if you are new to it or out of shape. The old adage "no pain, no gain" is generally inappropriate and can be dangerous.
- 8. No matter your age, condition or exercise preferences, it's always good to practice balance exercises. Balance techniques are used frequently as exercises in yoga. Other exercises to improve balance are as basic as walking heel-to-toe, standing on one foot, or standing up and sitting down without using your hands.
9. Stretching exercises done twice a week help you remain flexible, which is very important. Consider 10 minutes of stretching twice a week to improve your flexibility.
As mentioned in other articles in your online newsletter, February is American Heart Month so it's a great time to think about heart healthy exercise. But what really matters is that you maintain it throughout the year.
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