Heart Disease Awareness Month 3

Ophelia Gherman, M.D.
February 25, 2016
Exercise: your heart's favorite friend.

Lifelong physical activity is crucial to preventing many modern epidemics such as heart disease, obesity, and hypertension, but that doesn't mean you have to resign yourself to running marathons. Sensible exercise should consist of a combination of stretching, aerobic exercise, and strength training.


Stretching increases your flexibility by increasing blood flow to the muscles in your body. Aerobic exercises, which includes jogging, swimming, and cycling, increases your heart rate. They also help strengthen your heart muscle as well as help to relax your blood vessels through a substance called nitric oxide.


Strength training helps build muscle mass and strengthen your core. This method of exercise helps with posture, but it can also prevent injuries from occurring by improving balance.


Time is often a limiting factor and the main excuse for avoiding exercise. But studies show that 20 minutes of vigorous exercise 3 days a week or 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week is all you need. The good news is that you can break the routine in two by exercising 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening without losing any of the benefits. Just remember to warm up those muscles with a 5 minute warm up and to finish off with a relaxing stretch to cool down. 


So how do we start?


Before starting any exercise plan, it is important to check with your doctor to be sure that your heart is healthy enough to proceed.


The most effective way to start exercising is to set reasonable goals based on your current fitness levels. If you are currently sedentary, your goal may be to stretch in the morning for five minutes and take a moderate walk for fifteen minutes during your lunch break. If you are already exercising, then you should figure out what you’re missing in your routine. Are you taking the time to stretch? Have you shrugged off strength training with weights out of fear they will make you “bulky”? (They won't.) Re-evaluate these issues and set goals to start incorporating all three types of exercise into your routine for a heart-healthy future!