It’s no secret that exercise does a body good. Studies show it can help strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system, lower body fat, improve sleep and reduce stress, anxiety and depression, among other things.
A sedentary or inactive lifestyle puts you at greater risk of heart disease, so getting regular daily exercise can help prevent it. According to the American Heart Association, exercising for as little as 30 minutes a day can make a difference.
Heart hospital experts say combining aerobic exercise with strength training works best to combat heart disease.
Aerobic exercise, also called cardio or cardiovascular training, moves the large muscles of the body in the arms, legs and hips. It helps your body use the oxygen in your blood better. Your heart rate rises for a while, you breathe more deeply and the body releases endorphins, the “feel good” hormones, to reduce stress and make you feel more relaxed. Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, dancing, biking and swimming.
Walking is one of the easiest ways to improve your heart health. To start walking, you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment, just a good pair of sneakers. Enlist a friend to go on regular walks or find a walking group to help you stick with it. Walking buddies can make these outings fun and social as well as effective.
Strength training or resistance training isn’t just for bodybuilders. Research shows older adults who lift weights two or three times a week can build muscle mass and bone density, which contribute to overall heart health. Push-ups, lunges and standing bicep curls with weights are all examples of strength training moves.
Never rush into physical activity, especially if you’ve been a couch potato for a long time. Moderate exercise is generally safe for most people, but, if you’ve been inactive or have health problems, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any fitness program.
Once cleared, challenge yourself to keep moving, but avoid an all or nothing attitude. That can lead to aches and pains that may sink your plans to live healthier before you see any benefits. It’s okay to gradually build up to exercising 30 minutes or more a day and remember to do warm-up exercises and cool down stretches to prevent soreness and injury.
The key is to find activities you enjoy so you’ll want to exercise consistently and build a stronger, healthier heart.
The HeartCare Institute at Riverside Community Hospital is dedicated to effectively treating and combating heart disease. If you would like to learn more about our comprehensive services, call Riverside Community Hospital at (951) 788-3000.