February is National Heart Health Month

Few things are more important than the health of your heart. Eating a well balanced diet and maintaining a heart healthy exercise routine are the keys to great health and wellness. Moderate physical activity can help the heart maintain or gain strength over a lifetime. Whether you take part in a formal exercise program or simply incorporate more physical activity into your daily life, you are gaining the benefits of exercise. Most people find that moderate physical activity reduces stress and boosts energy levels in addition to controlling weight, increasing circulation and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels – all of which are especially important for heart heath. The best exercise for heart health is anything that increases your heart rate to about 50-80% of it’s maximum. Exercises such as walking, jogging, bike riding, swimming, dancing, cross country skiing, hiking, or rowing all increase the heart rate. If you are interested in beginning an exercise program, it is important to stay within your physician’s recommendations and your own comfort level. Here is a checklist of things to consider before becoming more physically active.

Do:

  • Have a complete physical by your physician especially if you are a female over the age of 50 or a male over the age of 40, or have not seen a physician in the past 6 months.
  • Consult a certified fitness professional, preferably with a degree in the Health Science field and a nationally recognized certification such as The American College of Sports Medicine.
  • Start slowly. Gradually build up to at least 30 minutes of activity five or more times per week (or whatever your doctor recommends). It does not have to be 30 consecutive minutes to be beneficial. You could start with three 10 minute sessions and build from there.
  • Exercise at the same time each session so that it becomes a regular part of your day.
  • Surround yourself with family and friends that share your interest in health and wellness and make “dates” for activity.
  • Vary your exercise to keep it interesting. Walk, bike, swim or go to the health club with your friends or family. Go dancing at night instead of sitting in a movie theatre.
  • Find something you enjoy and you are more likely to stick with it because it will be fun, not work.

Don’t:

  • Get discouraged if you stop temporarily. Establishing new habits takes time and effort. Habits are a combination of both physical and mental training.
  • Start too aggressively. It is important to begin your new program slowly and safely under the guidance of a health care professional.
  • Start your new program in the wrong gear. Comfortable clothing and well fitting shoes are essential to any exercise program. If you are wearing the shoes that you wore 10 years ago, they may not fit properly and you may injure yourself.
  • Follow someone else’s exercise program. What works for your friend or spouse may not be what works for you. Determining your goals and setting your priorities will keep you motivated and safe.
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