3 Ways to Exercise for a Healthy Heart

Are you getting in at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of heart-pumping, physical activity per week? Being more active helps you to think better, feel better, and sleep better and gives you a healthy heart!

(A note of precaution – before you start an exercise routine, the American Heart Association recommends “If you have medical problems or if you have been inactive and want to exercise vigorously, check with your doctor or other healthcare provider before starting a physical activity program. Your doctor can help you find a program suited to your needs and physical condition. If you’re at high risk of heart disease, your doctor may conduct an exercise stress test to identify any potential problems.”)

There are 3 specific ways of exercising that will benefit your cardiovascular health. Taking a balanced approach to exercise can help ward off cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and being overweight or obese.

  1. Aerobic Exercise (Cardio)

What exactly is cardio or aerobic exercise, and how much do you need?  Cardio/Aerobic exercise improves your cardiorespiratory fitness. It gets your heart working, makes it stronger, and improves circulation. Cardio/Aerobic exercise is classified by the intensity of the movement.

  • Moderate intensity means your heart rate goes up and you are breathing harder, but at this level you can still talk and hold a conversation. Moderate intensity exercises include walking, gardening or slow cycling.
  • Vigorous intensity means you are working harder, probably breathless, and cannot hold a conversation. Vigorous intensity exercises would include activities such as running, swimming laps or a high intensity cardio class.
  • A third way of doing a cardio/aerobic workout is called HIIT which stands for High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT cardio incorporates quick and very intense bursts of exercise that increase your heart rate quickly (you will be breathless) and are followed by a (very) short rest period.  When doing HIIT exercises you will shorten the length of time that a moderate approach to cardio would take, but what you do experience is a higher and longer (up to 48 hours) fat burning metabolic rate and many other advantages, especially for older adults.  HIIT improves your endurance and is proven to reduce more body fat and provide greater improvement in heart and lung fitness (cardiorespiratory fitness) than a 30-minute run.  It is also known to reverse signs of aging, helping you feel and stay young and turn back the clock on a cellular level!

How often should you do cardio/aerobic exercise for heart health?  The American Heart Association Recommends the following for adults:

At least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week.

  1. Resistance/Strength Training:

The American Heart Association also recommends that you add moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity (such as resistance or weights) on at least 2 non-consecutive days per week (American College of Sports Medicine). These are best done in between the days that you do cardio/aerobic Exercise.  Resistance training has an amazing effect on your body composition, creating leaner muscle mass, which helps boost your metabolic rate.  Combined with effective cardio conditioning and a diet free of processed foods and full of heart healthy nutrient dense whole foods and lean protein, it can help reduce overall body fat producing a leaner physique.  Research shows that the combination of cardio/aerobic exercise and resistance training may help raise your good (HDL) cholesterol and lower your bad (LDL) cholesterol.  Examples of resistance training include working with free weights, resistance bands, weight machines, as well as body resistance exercises that you can do anywhere such as pushups, burpees, and squats.

How long do you need to do strength training for to start seeing the benefits?  Not as long as you think – less than 1 hour per week lowers your risk of a heart attack or stroke by 40 -70% according to a newly published study from Iowa State University.  And better yet, spending more than an hour in the weight room did not yield any additional benefits. The benefits of strength training were found to be independent of running, walking or other aerobic activity.

  1. Flexibility:

We know that flexible veins mean good blood flow and lower blood pressure.  Your veins ‘harden’ in response to fatty deposits, cholesterol, plaque and calcium buildup in your blood vessels- setting the path for high blood pressure and increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart attack. Can you touch your toes?  Try it – your trunk flexibility is an indicator or your vascular flexibility.  Flexibility improvement is a benefit of both cardio/aerobic and strength training (especially functional movement exercises like burpees). Taking up a stretching regimen along with cardio and strength training significantly improves the flexibility of the carotid artery (the artery supplying your brain).

How often should you stretch?  Every day, before and after exercise.

Other recommendations of the American Heart Association:

  • Move as often as possible! Take stairs. Spend less time sitting.  All and any light-intensity activity can offset some of the risks of being sedentary.  NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis), moving around burns a lot of calories and can positively impact  your heart health and subsequent  weight loss significantly.
  • Gain even more benefits by being active at least 300 minutes (5 hours) per week.
  • Increase amount and intensity gradually over time.

Rolling Strong offers both a Flex System and a FIT system which helps drivers work out every day (strength, cardio and flexibility) in their trucks and on the road. The RS Flex System is designed to bring a functional workout to the truck and promotes building core strength, muscle toning, weight management, flexibility and improved cardio vascular health. Flex is a system that allows you to connect low impact resistance bands to various connection points in the truck and trailer or use a soft shell kettle bag or sand filled neoprene hand weights to get impactful workouts while away from home. Use the Rolling Strong App to guide you through workout routines using the Flex system. You can find both the Flex and the Fit Systems here:  http://rollingstrong.com/shop/

Using the Rolling Strong App is another way to get your healthy heart workouts in. You can find many options under the Fitness Section of your Rolling Strong App.  Check in with your Rolling Strong Coach and “know your numbers” (Blood pressure, blood sugar, waist circumference and BMI) to assess your cardiovascular risk factors and get support and all the tools you need to stay heart healthy.

By:  Cindy Luisi, WHE, WHC, CCP, CDL Wellness Coach


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