Exercise is a key part of heart health, but it doesn't have to be a chore. As the weather warms up, now is the perfect time to find an activity you enjoy and can stick with. Beginning to exercise after a sedentary winter does not have to be intimidating — in fact, it can be fun.
Current recommendations are for all adults to obtain at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activities every week. This breaks down to something as simple as walking 30 minutes five days a week. If you don't have a 30 minute block of time, you can exercise in 10-15 minute intervals throughout the day. They key is to move. Any activity is better than no activity.
Types of exercise can be divided into a few categories: aerobic, resistance and flexibility. Aerobic exercise, which raises the heart rate, is the most familiar to many people, and includes activities such as walking, jogging or sports like tennis. It's also the key to improving cardiovascular health. Aerobic activity can improve HDL (good) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and relieve anxiety and stress - all key factors in maintaining a healthy part. In combination with diet, aerobic activity can also spur weight loss, and is a vital component for maintaining any loss.
Resistance exercise increases strength and muscle mass, and generally involve weights or resistance bands. Performing resistance training 2-3 days per week can increase mobility and lean body mass.
Flexibility exercise stretches and lengthens muscles, and include activities such as stretching, yoga and pilates. The benefits of flexibility training include improved function, greater mobility, better balance and fewer falls. Flexibility, or stretching, exercises should also be performed 2-3 times per week.
These are just general guidelines. Most of us do a variety of these exercises, and most exercises include aerobic, resistance and flexibility compotents. For example, during a single session of yoga you can raise your heart rate, increase muscle mass and develop your flexibility all at the same time.
Even if you have suffered from heart disease in the past, you must exercise. In fact, heart disease and heart attack survivors especially need to exercise, to regain heart function. Cardiologists recommend that those who have had previous heart trouble begin to exercise again in a safe, supervised environment such as a cardiac rehabilitation facility. There each person receives an individualized exercise plan, and is monitored while exercising.
No matter your current level of fitness, the key to heart-healthy exercise is to find something you enjoy, and just do it. Exercise is absolutely necessary for every person, in order to maintain a healthy heart.
Dr. Alison Bailey is a Gill Heart Institute cardiologist and director of the UK HealthCare Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program.