Exercise Is a Must for Good Heart Health
by GRACE BOGGESS HIRDES
Do you have a health goal for 2020? Maybe you want to lose a few pounds or to eat fewer fatty foods. Have you considered making a health goal to improve your heart’s health? Only one in five Americans gets enough exercise on a weekly basis to maintain a healthy heart, and an average of 500,000 Americans experience their first heart attack each year.
Those figures still don’t capture the enormity of the problem because heart issues often are underdiagnosed. Dr. Kollagunta S. Chandrasekhar (known as Dr. Sekhar) director of the heart failure program at Baycare Winter Haven Hospital and founder of KSC Cardiology, explains that, “Heart problems are not what everyone expects them to be. Symptoms may not always be pain. They may include tiredness, discomfort, or heaviness.” He tells patients that if they feel something they typically do not feel and it is consistent, they should get it checked out.
Exercise is an important part of maintaining a healthy heart.
You don’t have to have a big, grand plan or fancy equipment. Just start with anything that moves your body and burns calories. Physical activity can include any achievable goal such as taking a daily walk, climbing stairs or even stretching.
“There are two different kinds of cardiac exercises to look at,” Sekhar says. “The first is primary, meaning you have never experienced any kind of heart trouble, and the other is secondary, meaning you have experienced heart trouble and are now trying to maintain your heart health.” Both are very important.
Regardless of which category you are in, Sekhar recommends any kind of moderate- intensity aerobic activity, such as walking, biking, swimming, or gardening. You can do this 3-4 times a week for 30-minute segments depending on what your body will allow you to do. However, it’s important to know your limitations and work with them.
“Do what’s right for you,” he says. “If your legs will not allow you to walk as much, try water aerobics. Do what your body lets you.”
If you want to get your heart rate up, you might consider doing a little more cardio activity to improve your cardio-respiratory fitness. You’ll know you’re doing a good amount and not overdoing it when your heart is beating faster and you’re breathing harder but you’re still able to talk.
According to the American Heart Association, “Kids 6-17 years old should get at least 60 minutes per day of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity, mostly aerobic.” You can achieve this by doing vigorous exercises such as running, swimming or jumping rope. You can even include exercises such as dancing, hiking, or cycling. Start slow and increase the amount and intensity gradually as your body gets used to it. Don’t try too much too soon.
While doing these exercises be sure to keep an eye on your heart rate. Sekhar explains it this way: “Your maximum heart rate is usually about 220 minus your age. A target heart rate during moderate intensity activities is about 80-85% of maximum heart rate. For example, if you are 60 years old, your maximum heart rate is about 160 so you should try to keep your heart rate in between 130-140 when exercising.” If your heart rate is too high, you’re straining and need to slow down.
For most people, between 60 and 100 beats per minute is normal for a resting heart rate but for a more active person a resting heart rate can be as low as 40 beats per minute. A lower resting heart rate can mean your heart muscle is in better condition and doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a steady beat.
If this is your first foray into working out and increasing your activity, don’t try to achieve too much too soon. Start by setting a small goal, and once you achieve it begin pushing yourself a little more each day. Sekhar encourages patients to resist the urge to compare yourself to your neighbor or friend right away. “Start slow, and don’t panic. If you don’t meet your goals right away. Take your time and do what’s right for you.” Our recommendation is to start by taking short brisk walks once or twice a day. These minutes will add up, and walking is free and accessible.
To maximize your workout, include both vigorous and moderate exercise in your routine as well as warm-up stretches before your workout and cooldown stretches after. These exercises will not only help improve your heart, but also can also help prevent type 2 diabetes, and colon and lung cancers.