Heart Healthy Fitness

Studies indicate that people who engage in even a little bit of moderate exercise a few times a week are half as likely to develop heart disease. If you’ve led an inactive lifestyle for years, it’s never too late to begin changing your habits. As an ancient proverb observes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is today.” While any activity is beneficial to your heart, there are a few principles to keep in mind that will help you develop the habit of exercise, which is far more beneficial than occasional high-intensity workouts.

How Long Should I Work Out For?

The American Heart Association suggests that each person should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week (defined as any activity that increases your heart rate but doesn’t inhibit your ability to converse comfortably), or alternatively 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise. It is best for your body and your discipline that these minutes be spread out as much as possible over the week.

For best results, you’ll want to favor consistency over intensity. Five days of a few minutes of moderate exercise will strengthen your heart far more than 150 minutes straight of jogging, which may cause your body more harm than good. Even 30 minutes of light jogging per day, Monday thru Friday, will vastly improve your health and overall quality of life.

How Should I Work Out?

Before knowing how you should work out, there’s one thing you should know above all: promoting the health of your body is vital to promoting the health of your heart. Certain exercises may be amazing for your heart, but will cause your joints and muscles a great deal of long-term damage (ex: long-distance jogging for hours at a time). This is not good exercise, and the pain is not worth “pushing through.” Make sure that what you’re doing take the long-term health of your body into account.

Weight Training

The key to strengthening your heart is ensuring that over time, it works less hard in order to power your body. Weight training makes your body’s movements and tasks far more efficient, putting less strain on the heart. Another benefit of weight training is that greater muscle mass improves your body’s overall metabolism, lowering the amount of fat on your body and reducing the risk of heart disease.

Interval Training

Unlike long-distance running or long durations of steady activity, interval training works to raise and lower your heart rate in short bursts. By doing this, you’re essentially making your heart do “push-ups,” strengthening its ability to change speed and provide the oxygen your body needs. The way you do this is by doing intervals of moderate exercise, punctuated by short bursts of high-intensity exercise. For example, if you’re walking, you might walk quickly or run every 3 minutes. As you increase the intensity of your workouts, you will increase the intensity of both your low- and high-intensity intervals.

Consistent Activity

Consistency is key to success in any endeavor. It’s far better to work out a little bit every day for a few months, slowly improving each time, than to start with Olympic-level workouts that leave you burned out for weeks. Don’t be ashamed to start small. Work your way toward achievable goals. Do something a little different each time so that you enjoy yourself.

Another key to health is to find ways to stay active all day. Sitting at a desk for 8 hours and then working out for an hour is beneficial, but not as beneficial as taking a walk around the office once every hour or so. People who run errands or work on-the-go tend to be healthier than their officer-worker counterparts.

Above all, promoting healthy bodies and healthy hearts is about thinking long-term. Don’t worry about working out like mad for two hours after work. Just walk for 15 minutes, and do that consistently for a week. Increase by a few minutes every month, keep yourself entertained, and have fun with your activity. Fitness doesn’t have to be a chore. Just do what you like, and do it often!

This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis of a physician.

If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.