Valentine’s Day may be over but February is also “National Heart Month” designated to remind us that the most important heart to be thinking about is our own! The heart is a muscle and it needs to be worked like the other muscles in our body. Exercise helps improve your heart health by strengthening your heart, increasing blood flow to your entire body and teaching your heart to be more efficient.
The human heart is an amazing muscle, capable of pumping about five quarts of blood throughout the body every minute—that’s approximately 2,000 gallons of blood each day! In fact, the average heart beats about 100,000 times each day, too, which is why it’s so important to have a strong and healthy heart.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA) nearly 70% of Americans don’t get enough exercise, yet inactivity is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease (CAD).
CAD is caused by deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, calcium and other substances in the inner lining of the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. Over time, CAD can weaken the heart muscle and lead to chest pain or heart failure.
While CAD is the most common type of heart disease and the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, the good news is that lifestyle changes—like exercise!—can help prevent or treat CAD in most people.
How much cardiovascular exercise do you need to ensure good heart health? The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)recommends 150 minutes per week and if you are looking to lose weight, you will want to add an additional 60-90 minutes. To find your maximum heart rate subtract your age from 220. Multiply the result by 0.6 to find the lower limit of your target heart rate. Then multiply that result by 0.8 to find the upper limit of your target heart rate. You should be breathing hard but still be able to carry on a conversation.
Here are some ways to get your heart pumping…
- Join a Class such as Baby Boot Camp (hint, hint). But seriously, taking fitness classes builds camaraderie, accountability and makes fitness fun. This will bring you face to face with people who are trying to lose weight and get healthy just like you. Allowing you to build friendships based on health and mutual support.
- Bottoms Up! Your quadriceps (thighs) and gluteus maximus (bottom area) are some of largest muscles in your body. When you use them, you give your heart a great workout in a short period of time. Do a variety of lunges or squats—or both. You can even do them in small spaces so NO EXCUSES! In 15 minutes, your heart rate will have increased and you’ll be toning up at the same time.
- Jumping Rope is one of the quickest ways to get your heart rate up. Start gradually; jumping only five minutes per session, gradually increasing your time as your heart becomes stronger. Jumping rope is excellent for toning your legs too. Don’t own a jump rope – just pretend!
- Running is another great exercise for the heart. It is also an exercise that is relatively inexpensive and easy to do since you can lace up your running shoes and walk out the door. Running gets your heart rate up which in turn helps improve blood flow.
- Cycling gets your heart rate up without the stress on your lower body. You can hop on a stationary bike at the gym, add a little resistance and pedal away. If you want to really get your heart rate up, try an area Spinning® class!
- Swimming gets your heart rate up without any impact on your joints. Pick one or two of your favorite strokes, hop into a lane and work on swimming 5-10 minutes non- stop for a few sessions and work up from there. Don’t forget your goggles!
No matter how much you work out now, we all can improve our heart health with a combination of cardio and strength exercises. The important thing is to just get moving! So get your heart pumping now…so it stays pumping for years to come!
Britta Hogue is a NETA certified Personal Trainer and owner of Baby Boot Camp of the Capital District, offering classes and nutrition programs for moms. Sign up for a free class at www.babybootcamp.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.