You only have so many heartbeats in a lifetime. Keeping your heart muscle in peak condition is crucial for longevity, and physical activity is crucial for peak condition. Unfortunately, a busy schedule impacts a consistent exercise routine. Juggling career, kids, family, friends, and household all take precedence over your activity level. But what if I said being active was as important as the medication your doctor prescribed? You wouldn’t skip taking your medicine because you were too busy, correct?
That’s how movement and exercise need to be thought of, as medicine. Foregoing this “medication” can lead to high blood pressure, an unhealthy lipid profile, elevated blood sugar, and chronic inflammation. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and other cardiovascular complications often soon follow. The fantastic news is, regular aerobic exercise can prevent CAD complications and allow you to maintain a healthy heart. The better news is, you can start a cardiovascular health program any time, at any age.
Cardiovascular Health Tips for Heart Patients
If you are suffering from any cardiovascular problem, it’s always advisable to exercise, even if you can only walk for a few minutes. Newton’s first law: “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion.” However, consult your healthcare professional before starting an exercise program, especially after a diagnosis or cardiac event.
My first rule is to start slow but increase the speed and duration of activity. The typical person who gets into trouble is the 50-year-old male who played high school football, hasn’t exercised since, and is going to hike up a mountain. Men like this fall victim to heart attacks all the time.
A cardiologist will consider your history, exam, electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), and other factors to advise the best level of activity to support your cardiovascular health. Sometimes, doctors recommend a stress treadmill (nuclear injection not needed). Your body will adapt over time, and you’ll find it easier to increase to a brisk walk or even a jog. As you build a stronger cardiovascular system with consistency, you’ll experience enhanced benefits, including weight loss and a decreased risk of heart attack and stroke. Even if you’ve had a cardiac event, it should be a primary goal to regain and increase your overall fitness level. Your heart will thank you for your efforts.
Cardiovascular Health Tips for Non-Patients
If you are not suffering from any serious cardiovascular issues, but still feeling breathless after a little activity, it means your heart capacity may be in poor condition. Any kind of aerobic exercise like walking, jogging, hiking, cycling, swimming, rowing, skating, jumping and dancing will improve your heart capacity. Choose an activity you enjoy, avoid the ones you don’t. Many people fail at their exercise routine simply by trying to do something they don’t enjoy doing. Moving should be fun!
If you’re in shape and looking for a fun way to change things up, try high intensity interval training (HIIT) rather than exercising for 30 or 45 minutes at the same pace. Incorporating HIIT is simple if you’re doing it right. Here’s how it works:
- Pick your favorite cardiovascular exercise like running on a treadmill, stair climber, elliptical trainer or stationary bike.
- Warm up for a good 3-5 minutes
- Increase the speed to your maximum effort (literally go as fast as you can) for 30 seconds
- Reduce your speed for a moving 90 second rest.
- Work your way up to 8 repetitions of this for a game changing workout.
- Cool down for a few minutes after a HIIT session, no matter how many reps you’re able to complete.
- Do this workout 2 times per week and you’ll see a tremendous benefit in your cardiovascular health and overall fitness
Know Your Heart Rate for Cardiovascular Health
Investing in a heart rate monitoring system is a great idea! Compared to interval training, the heart rate training approach allows a more efficient, focused and structured guidance to train your cardiovascular system. You can actually monitor your improvements and stay motivated to achieve your cardiovascular fitness. No matter what your level of expertise is regarding fitness, you know exactly when it’s time to move on to the next set of exercises, rest, or increase your output. Having a heart rate monitor allows you to push your limits and remain in a safe heart rate zone.
A quality monitor will have simple instructions on how to determine your target heart rate for your individual goals. As always, we recommend you consult your healthcare professional before beginning or changing your exercise routine.
If you can exercise first thing in the morning, it can be a great metabolism booster and lead to an increase in your sustained daily energy. If you can’t workout in the morning, a good guideline is to exercise about one hour after eating a meal to not interfere with digestion. It is advisable to avoid working out at night. Remember, our Paleo ancestors awoke and retired with the sun, and you should do the same.
It’s very important to start slow and gradually build your cardiovascular stamina and endurance. Persistence in your aerobic training regime is the key to your healthy heart. You cannot improve or sustain your cardiovascular health by exercising for a few days or just for an event like a vacation or class reunion.
Aerobic exercise and physical activity should be part of your daily routine. If you’re just starting out, 10 minutes per day is 10x your current exercise amount. In almost all cases, small but consistent changes make for huge benefits and lasting results.
Talk to a health coach today and get started moving your way to a better heart. Your first consultation is FREE!