February is Heart Health Awareness Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. While there are many ways you can avoid this disease, staying active is one of the easiest. Studies show that people who don’t exercise are almost twice as likely to get heart disease as people who are active. In fact, regular exercise can help burn calories, lower LDL (bad cholesterol), and boost HDL (good cholesterol).
The American Heart Association recommends approximately 150 minutes of exercise per week. This can be divided into 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise 5 days per week or 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity 3 days per week along with moderate to high intensity strength training 2 days per week. Some of the best types of exercises that you can do are interval training, total-body/nonimpact sports, weight training, core workouts, and yoga. You can also just go for a brisk walk for 30 minutes per day.
In addition to strengthening muscles, exercise has been proven to do wonders for your heart health. For one, it can lower blood pressure. It does this by acting like a beta-blocker medication, which slows the heart rate & lowers blood pressure both at rest & while working out. It also lowers your stress level. Stress hormones can put an extra burden on the heart, but exercise can help you to relax and thus, ease stress. Additionally, it can stop or slow the development of diabetes. When combined with strength training, regular aerobic exercise can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by over 50%! It does this by allowing the muscles to better process glycogen. Next, it is key for weight control. Being overweight can put extra stress on the heart, and it is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Combining a smart diet with physical activity is essential for losing weight and, most importantly, for keeping it off. Lastly, it can help reduce inflammation. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce chronic inflammation as the body adapts to the challenge of exercise within the bodily systems.
Some simple ways to get more exercise into your day include just moving or walking more. Park your car at the far end of the parking lot at your job or choose stairs instead of the elevator. If possible, spend part of your lunch break walking or take a few short walks throughout the day. Break the TV habit in favor of exercise or, if you have the space, exercise in front of the TV. Don’t sit for too long at one time. In recent years, research has suggested that staying seated for long periods of time is bad for your health, no matter how much exercise you get.
Before beginning any new exercise regimen, be sure to speak with your physician. Stop and get immediate medical attention if you have pain or pressure in your chest or the upper part of your body, break out in a cold sweat, have trouble breathing, have a very fast or uneven heart rate, or feel dizzy, lightheaded, and/or very tired.
By Gina Stallone