Get Up and Get Going

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It’s so easy to get in the habit of taking steps to strengthen your heart muscle and potentially ward off disease and illness.

Story by Ann Butenas

After all of the indulging and imbibing many of us enjoyed over the holidays, it is time to switch gears and consider getting our health and weight back on track. There have most likely been a few pounds gained and way too many sweets consumed over the past several weeks. As a result, you may feel a bit sluggish, lethargic and perhaps a tiny bit unmotivated. However, there is something you can do to get your heart pounding again so you can feel more energized, awakened, and alive: exercise!

Before you moan and groan about having to work up a sweat, we are not simply talking about exercise to help you regain control of your physique; we are referring to exercise you can do – and enjoy – to boost your heart health. And as a side benefit, you will most likely feel much improved mentally, and that is something we could all use during the dull, long Winter months, right?

Being physically active is a great way to stay healthy, control your weight, and potentially ward off disease and illness. Exercise is also a key advantage to strengthening the heart muscle. With a strong and healthy heart on your side, you can potentially avoid high blood pressure and high blood sugar that can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.

It does matter the type of exercise in which you engage, however. Different types of workouts are needed to provide overall fitness. For heart health, both aerobic exercise and resistance training are an integral part of heart health.


What is aerobic exercise?

Examples of this include brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming, playing tennis and jumping rope. When you get your heart pumping as a result, you will help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. If you already have type 2 diabetes, this type of exercise can help you control your blood glucose.

While it does require some commitment from you, it is not an overwhelming amount of time. Experts typically suggest engaging in some form of aerobic exercise at last 30 minutes a day, five days a week. That is about the time of one of your favorite shows on Netflix or Hulu. You got this!


What is resistance training?

For individuals who have excess body fat, such as a big stomach (a significant risk factor for heart disease), resistance training can help reduce the fat and create leaner muscle mass. When you combine aerobic exercise with strength training, you increase the success of raising your good cholesterol (HDL) and lowering the bad cholesterol (LDL).

Whereas aerobic exercise focuses on the overall body, resistance training targets specific areas on the body and its overall composition. A few examples of resistance exercise include using weight machines, hand weights, dumbbells or barbells. You can even do some pushups, chin-ups or squats.


But not so fast….first things first…

In order to do the aforementioned exercises, it is important to be flexible and work on your balance. Even though stretching exercises don’t have a direct impact on heart health, they do assist musculoskeletal health. Translation?  You enjoy increased flexibility and steer clear of joint pain, cramping or other issues related to your muscles. This will then enable you to patriciate in the other kinds of exercise. In other words, no excuses. Stretching should be a part of your everyday routine, both before and after you work out.  Your doctor can advise you as to certain stretching routines you can perform safely at home.


Let’s get started!

Make it a choice to do your heart some good. Taking care of your ticker doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. Just lace up a pair of good walking shoes and head out the door. Walking is the number one way to help your heart remain strong. Walk whenever and wherever you can – to work, to the store, or just around the neighborhood. For maximum heart health benefit from aerobic exercise, it is important to reach between 50 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. You can do this easily at home by simply climbing stairs. You can determine your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. If counting your heartbeats seems too distracting, you can assume you are within your target range if you can carry on a conversation while exercising without too much effort.

Cycling is also an excellent choice of exercise for improved heart health. Clean up that two-wheeler of yours or hop on a stationery bike.

If you prefer the water, two and a half hours of swimming each week will give you the heart health benefits you need. Plus, your body will love the fact you are putting less stress on your bones and joints. If you have joint issues, swimming is a great option to work on your heart health.

Grab your dancing shoes and get moving. Yes, you can dance your way to better heart health. Check out a Zumba class or just dance around your living room to your favorite songs. Any movement is better than no movement at all.

When you exercise, you not only improve your heart health and overall fitness levels, you also give your mental health a boost. Exercise reduces stress, alleviates depression and provides a truly motivating and positive mindset.

Sources: hopkinsmedicine.org, everydayhealth.com

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