With all the research and discoveries over the last few decades, it is surely not a secret to anyone who is not a cave dweller that exercise is essential to a healthy heart. If our ancestors had been aware of that fact, perhaps they would have had longer life spans than 40 or 45 years during certain eras in history.
If you are reading this article, chances are that you need some help getting started with a program or perhaps just some facts about why this is something that everyone must do to improve quality of life and health.
The first order of business needs to be checking with your doctor before starting any kind of exercise program. That may seem rather curious since you’re doing it to make your heart healthy in the first place, but it is vital to be sure you have a doctor’s “blessing” to start any exercise routine. It is vital that you not go overboard in your vigor, and only your doctor can best guess your limits in that regard. As just one example, if there are pre-existing heart problems of any kind, whether or not you are aware of them, certain types of exercises will be restricted.
Why does it matter?
When an exercise program is followed concurrently with a heart-healthy diet, it helps to prevent heart disease. It matters because heart disease kills more men and women annually than any other cause of death. The number of people in the United States who have some form of cardiovascular disease is estimated to be more than 64 million.
As you become used to an exercise routine, your heart will get stronger, thus pumping more blood. That delivers more oxygen to your body. Exercise can help keep the bad kind of cholesterol under control and even help with the good cholesterol numbers. An exercise program can lower blood pressure and give you an overall feeling of success and well-being.
I’ve never exercised, how do I start?
Many people find that having a program and making sure they stick to it is one of the best tools they have to succeed. It is much too easy to decide to do less or skip exercise completely if it’s a busy day or if there are other things on your mind.
If you know exactly how long you will be exercising, it is more difficult to push it aside and make adjustments as many of us are prone to do. In addition to the length of time you will be exercising, decide on the time of day that will work better for you. Many people find that early morning with all that new and refreshing energy we wake up with is the best time to do their exercise workout.
Perhaps the most important factor in starting a program is that you need to find the determination and know that you are going to stick to it no matter what. Also very important is to make sure you won’t be starting with a mindset that it will be “torture” or a chore, or it just won’t work for you. Try to get excited about the fact that you’re doing something beneficial for your body, your life, and anyone who cares about you.
Which exercises can I do to start?
Whatever exercises you end up deciding to do, the first thing you will want to do before starting any workout is your stretches. This is important because it helps to prevent strains and other types of injuries and lessens muscle soreness that may come with a new workout routine.
After you have stretched sufficiently, you will want to do some cardiovascular exercise. Aerobic exercise is an excellent choice. This is how you train your body to use oxygen better. The word aerobic is defined as “oxygen producing.” This type of exercise is the best for your heart and it is excellent for the lungs as well.
Be sure to cool down after the workout. You can accomplish this by simply slowing down in stages to allow your body to return to pre-exercise state, or you may want to do some of the same stretches that you used to warm up. Five minutes each for warm-up and cool-down is usually sufficient.
So, what to do? You may want to invest in a treadmill to get your daily workouts in a fun way. Another idea is to buy an aerobics video or two. People who are used to exercising every day will tell you that it’s not needed, but if you require something for inspiration or to see what kinds of routines you may enjoy, by all means don’t be afraid to buy a video. It will help teach you some of the workout routines that others do. Be sure to get a beginner workout, though, if that is the level at which you currently are when starting a program. You will also want to start with “low-impact” aerobics.
What are some simple aerobic exercises I can do without a video?
–Jogging (on a treadmill is fine if you can’t run outside)
–Walking (again, treadmill works great)
–Riding a bicycle (“real” or stationary)
–Jump rope workout
How long should I exercise for maximum benefit?
You will want to eventually be doing 30 minutes of workout about four times a week, or every other day and you may want to choose to take it up to 60 minutes when you are comfortable with your workout and if you wish to have a longer session. It is very important to remember, however, that whatever you can manage to do will be better than not doing anything at all. In other words, if you can do only ten minutes on the treadmill at first, or five minutes, by all means, do that!
You may find that you will be able to spend more time at exercising if you use music. A personal CD player and headsets works well no matter what type of workout you have chosen. If a treadmill is your choice, music or even watching television while doing your walking will most likely result in being able to stick with it longer than you might have without those “distractions.”
How can I avoid sabotaging myself into quitting?
It is important to have a program that is not going to make you feel as if you are going to the dentist for a root canal every other day. The main way to avoid sabotaging yourself is to make sure you are not overdoing it and overworking yourself. Start slowly and build up when you feel you are ready for an escalation, not at some point where a book or magazine article said you should step it up. You will know when it’s time to add a few more repetitions, exercises, minutes to your workout, or distance to your walking route.
Other ways to make sure it stays healthy and enjoyable:
–Start slow and steady, especially if you are not used to exercising
–Don’t forget your warm-up and cool-down to avoid excess soreness
–Don’t exercise for at least 90 minutes after a meal
–You may enjoy keeping a journal or log of your progress
–Ask a friend or neighbor to join you if you would enjoy that
–Be sure to stay hydrated during your routine, especially if you are
outside in the summertime
–Wear comfortable clothing and shoes that are good for exercising
Can I do anything else for my heart?
In addition to exercise, there are other ways to make sure your heart is as healthy as possible. Smoking is very damaging to the heart, as we have all surely heard. Second hand smoke is damaging to the heart as well.
Obesity poses a huge risk so if you are starting an exercise program for heart health, you may want to reap the added benefit of some pounds lost whether you actually intended to make that happen or not.
Pay attention to your diet and limit the “bad fats,” white sugar, excessive salt, etc.
As difficult as it may sound, it is important to keep your anxiety levels low. Stress leads to various health problems, with hypertension (high blood pressure) being one of the major results of too much stress.
Find additional ways to get more exercise during the day, even after you are finished with your routine. Some ways you may choose to do this include:
–Park further away in parking lots than you may have done before
–Do your housework, yard work, etc. a bit faster than you normally would do them
–Choose stairs instead of elevator if it is an option
–Walk a little faster than usual and pump your arms when walking
In closing . . .
An exercise routine is extremely good for the heart. We all need to find the time to get into a routine of making it happen. The major goal is to make your workout enjoyable and you will be facing success and a brand new (and longer!) lifestyle.