We know that exercise is important. The far-reaching benefits include helping to maintain an ideal body weight, reducing stress, preventing injury, boosting bone health and, of course, keeping our heart (our most important muscle) strong and healthy. It’s this last benefit that most of us assume we are experiencing, but are we? Do we really know how to move for our heart?
Not too high and not too low. That’s right Goldilocks, you’re seeking the perfect “just right” rate to ensure your heart is getting the workout you mean for it to get. According to the American Heart Association, it’s essential to know your resting and target heart rates, and understand how these numbers compare against the recommendations for your age group to ensure you are working your heart the way you intend too.
The Mayo Clinic reminds us that it’s not just sneaking in a workout that matters, but using that workout to lower blood pressure, manage heart failure symptoms, and improve cholesterol that makes your work out part of your prescription for heart disease prevention. The Mayo Clinic calls for 30 to 40 minutes of continuous exercise OR 10-minute increments to equal 30 to 40 minutes throughout the day (goal: 150-200 minutes/week).
A Brisk Walk
It’s important not to overlook the benefits of a brisk walk that pushes you, increases your need for oxygen, gets your heart pumping, and elevates your heart rate. Indeed, when done correctly, a walk is all you need to strengthen your cardiovascular system.
Once you are walking frequently and meeting the recommended daily/weekly needs, then it’s time to add strength training and additional exercises that push you. Experts at Harvard highlight the benefits of high intensity training for healthy individuals who are trying to boost their heart health by briefly pushing their maximum output. These high intensity “bursts” are ideal for individuals who want to push themselves but may have limited time for exercise.
Attributes of a Heart Healthy Workout
Hydration: Drink water before, during, and after exercise to prevent dehydration.
Calorie Needs: Consume balanced meals and snacks throughout the day to maintain adequate intake. If weight loss is a goal, then calculate your daily calories to ensure you aren’t taking in more than you’re burning.
Balanced Nutrition: A heart healthy diet is high in fiber through fruits, vegetables and whole grain, while being low in sodium and saturated fat. Try these recipes that help you meet these goals: