Have a Hearty Workout for Your Heart
Your heart, about the size of your fist, is a highly efficient pump. Your heart pumps
nearly 2,000 gallons of blood every day, or 5-1/2 quarts a minute, and beats 100,000
times a day. Unlike other muscles, your heart muscle doesn't tire from use. Your heart
is like other muscles because it needs exercise to work at its best. What kind of
exercise would that be? Ideally, a brisk 30 to 40-minute walk, 4 to 5 days each week
will achieve the best results. If you don't have time for 30 to 40 minutes of moderate
to vigorous intensity activity all at once, you can break it down into 2 or 3 smaller
periods of time each day and get the same benefits.
In fact, any activity that repeats and involves some vigorous movement of large muscles
like brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or bicycling is good for your heart. Other
activities such as taking the stairs instead of riding the elevator or mowing the
lawn can increase your heart health.
The makings of a hearty workout
When you exercise, you are training your heart to perform better under pressure. Exercise
forces your heart to supply your muscles with more oxygen and energy than is needed
during rest. It also flushes out wastes that pile up in the muscles faster than when
you are at rest. The result? A fit heart that can fill with blood and squeeze it out
Here's what a heart-smart exercise routine should include:
At least 5 minutes of warm-up. Starting your exercise session gradually
helps avoid injury to your muscles and joints and minimizes aches and pains later.
Take some deep breaths. If you are planning on a vigorous workout, make your warm-up
Moderate exercise. Exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes, 5 days each
week. Don't exercise to the point of total breathlessness. You should be able
to carry on a conversation while exercising.
A cool down. Allow your body to cool down by walking or pedaling slowly
for at least 5 minutes and gradually return to rest. Do some gentle stretches
to keep your body limber and flexible.
When starting an exercise program, particularly if you haven't been active, begin
easily and slowly increase the intensity and length of the activity. Choose activities
that you will want to do every day. Remember, before starting a new exercise program,
check with your healthcare provider first. This is especially important if you have
a long-term health problem or take medicines daily.
You will also benefit from lower-intensity activities like housework, gardening, and
walking for pleasure.