Before we dive into the top 3 ways to exercise, let’s learn the risk factors that can be red flags against heart health.

Cardio Vascular Red Flags

(The not so “fun” stuff):
  • High Blood Pressure (Readings above 140/90mmHG)
  • High Cholesterol (levels above 240mg/DL)
  • High Blood Sugar (levels above 140mg/L and A1C above 7%)
  • Inflammation (hs-CRP above 2mg/L)
  • Minimal to no physical activity (less than 30 minutes daily)
  • Obesity (Certain body fat percentage based on age, sex, weight, height)
  • Chronic Stress, anxiety, along with other mental health related ailments

If you have any of these symptoms, please talk with your doctor and other healthcare professionals on your team to work towards lowering your risks and finding ways to live a healthier lifestyle!

Alright, let’s dive in. 

Top 3 ways to exercise to improve overall heart health:

 

Aerobic Exercise (Cardio)

What is it?

Aerobic exercise, more commonly known as cardio, is a form of exercise that can range from low to high intensity. Cardio helps to improve the way that your heart works and in the long run, will reduce the overall workload placed on your heart.

Examples:

  • Walking, Jogging, Running
  • Rowing
  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Cardio Machines (Treadmill, elliptical, exercise bikes)
  • Sports (Basketball, soccer, tennis, etc.) 
  • High Intensity Interval Training (full body exercise based, high heart rate with minimal rest periods)

Recommendations (how often?):

  • 30 minutes 5 times per week (ACSM)

If 30 minutes is too long of a period all at once, perform smaller sessions throughout the day such as 10-15 minute rounds. Totally okay and will not impact your results!

  • Hip, knee, ankle soreness?

Use lower impact machines and exercises such as an elliptical or bike as well as going for walks outdoors around your community. This is will build up the strength and endurance in your muscles around those joints to progress to more intensive forms of cardio.

Weight Training (Strength Training)

What is it?

Weight training, also known as strength or resistance training, is a form of exercise where weights and bodyweight are used to improve strength and stability. The benefits go far beyond strength! (Click here to view heck out this awesome graphic showing more benefits of strength training!)

Examples:

  • Free Weights (dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells)
  • Resistance Bands or Cable Machines
  • Exercise Machines
  • Balance/Stability training
  • Suspension Training (Check out TRX!)
  • Bodyweight 

Recommendations (how often?):

  • 2-3+ times a week (do not work same muscle group during back to back workouts) (ACSM)
  • Be sure to use stretching and loosening exercises before and after working out! (examples listed below in number 3)

Stretching

What is it?

Stretching is a form of exercise where muscles are stretched to help with flexibility and help to reduce tension in muscles in joints. 

Examples:

  • Static (holding a position for a period of time to stretch a muscle) (AFTER exercise or during your day to day)
  • Dynamic (going through different movements to help with overall flexibility and mobility, aka how well we can move our joints) (BEFORE Exercise)
  • Ballistic (dynamic stretching with more “jerky” “bouncing” movements… not usually recommended) 

Recommendations (how often?):

  • Varies depending on goal (athletic performance, overall flexibility, or injury prevention and rehabilitation) (ACSM)
  • 2-3+ times a week of static stretching
    • Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds
    • Repeat each stretch 2-4 times
    • Increase stretch until slight discomfort, but don’t force anything!
  • Perform dynamic stretching as well some type of cardio warmup prior to exercise or activity (when not warmed up properly, your muscle will act as if you were trying to stretch a rubber band fresh out of a freezer… not too well!)

Now, the symptoms listed at the beginning of the post shouldn’t SCARE you. Yes, we want to work towards getting rid of these symptoms, but I want you to know that there is hope and that these “red flags” can definitely be improved upon and even reversed! 

Let’s use me as an example…

My own personal experience:

I have been active in sports since I was in the second grade, getting really serious about them in high school where I began to participate in strength and conditioning. You would think that I would be in tip top shape, right? WRONG. I have been flagged to watch my cholesterol levels my entire life, have been on high blood pressure medications, am morbidly obese according to the BMI scale (which is not as relevant, as muscle weighs more than fat, but that is a conversation for another day), use a CPAP machine at night to treat a condition called sleep apnea, and am currently still working on minimizing my stress and anxiety levels. 

Heart health = not so good.

So, what did I do?

I began working closely with my doctor, fellow healthcare professionals, and putting my knowledge of training and healthy eating habits to the test. I began making healthier eating choices, used to-do lists and meditation to work on my stress levels, and began to strength train and incorporate more purposeful and frequent cardio sessions.

All of this has led to me being released from all prescription medications, having all blood work levels in preferable ranges, and feeling better overall in my body! 

Heart health = Better (still practicing healthy lifestyle habits to improve!) 

If you have any questions based on any information in this post, please feel free to reach out to me at ssarge@ampersandintegrative.com

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