Get Physical for Your Heart


If you’re following a heart healthy diet, you are definitely on the right track! But, as you probably already know, it’s not quite that simple. To have the healthiest heart possible, regular exercise needs to be a part of your life as well.

Here are 8 ways exercise can help your heart:

  1. Reduces your risk of developing heart disease.
  2. Lowers your risk of developing high blood pressure.
  3. Lowers blood pressure in some people who have high blood pressure.
  4. Raises your high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol.
  5. Lowers your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol.
  6. Lowers the amount of triglycerides, a form of fat, in your bloodstream.
  7. Helps you lose extra weight, which can strain your heart.
  8. Makes your heart and lungs work more efficiently.

Why wouldn’t you want to get more physical for your heart when all these health issues are on the line?  We know it can be hard though, especially if physical activity hasn’t been a part of your life in a long time (or ever). But anyone can get started or get back into the heart healthy fitness groove.

The American Heart Association suggests at least 150 minutes each week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity).

A great goal that’s easy to remember is 30 minutes a day, five times a week. But remember you’ll also get the benefits if you divide your time into two or three segments of 10 -15 minutes throughout the day.

Hopefully some of these tips will help you get moving:

  • Choose activities you love. The key to getting excited about exercising and sticking with it is to do things you enjoy. Then choose a convenient time and place to work out. Do different activities rather than relying on just one so you don’t get bored with your routine.
  • Walk. The easiest, positive change you can make to effectively improve your heart health is simply to start walking. It’s pleasant, free, easy, social and great exercise. Walking is perfect for many people because it’s so flexible. It’s an activity with high success rates since people can often stick with it.
  • Build up endurance. Start off slow if you need to. Gradually build up how hard, how long and how often you exercise. But be careful you don’t overdo it. Listen to your body, and don’t ignore any pain in your joints, ankles, feet or legs.
  • Drink plenty of water. While you exercise, drink water every 15 minutes, especially when it’s very hot and/or humid. Remember to drink before you feel thirsty since you can’t always rely on thirst alone to tell you when you need more fluids.
  • Set attainable goals. Even if you can’t make it 30 minutes at first, something is always better than nothing. Make your goal 10 minutes when you’re starting out, then work up to longer periods.
  • Fun for the family. Playing sports, hiking and swimming are great ways to get your heart rate up that the kids will enjoy too. And don’t forget about technology! Sitting in front of the TV playing video games doesn’t count, but there are great interactive sports and fitness video games available that provide fun family time and exercise.
  • Everything counts. Taking the stairs up to your office, the walk through the parking lot, a brisk walk around the block during your lunch hour and household chores like vacuuming and mowing the lawn definitely count.
  • Work in strength training. While it doesn’t increase heart rate, strength training is a great complement to aerobic activity since it increases stamina. As with cardio, start slowly and build up to heavier weights and more repetitions.

Check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program, especially if you’ve been inactive for a while. It’s especially important if you have a chronic health problem, such as heart disease, diabetes, or obesity, or if you are at high risk for developing these conditions. If you have any chest pain or discomfort during exercise that goes away after you rest, call your doctor right away. This can be a sign of heart disease.

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