So, you’ve heard that exercise can help improve your heart health and reduce the risk of many other diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and the list goes on. A 2012 research paper has shown that physical inactivity was a leading cause, around 40% to be exact, in individuals that later developed cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer, and all other causes of mortality (aka death).

But what can you do and what types of exercise? 

The best answer is, MOVE and have VARIETY (Strength Training, Aerobic Exercise, and Stretching).

 

1. Strength Training

Strength training or resistance training can range from bodyweight exercises to lifting any kind of weights. If you’re not a huge fan of cardiovascular exercise (cardio), well you’re in luck. A 2019 study showed that strength training for an hour or less a week helped reduce risk of heart disease and stroke by 40-70%. For an hour or so a week, you can put a big damper on a preventable disease that has been killing 1 in 4 Americans! Strength training has also been shown to reduce pericardial fat, the fatty tissue surrounding your heart, something that cardio was not shown to help with! Reducing this type of fat is important as the more you have, the higher the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Examples of cardiovascular diseases are: heart attack, stroke, coronary artery disease, abnormal heart rates and atrial fibrillation, and high blood pressure.

 

If not training already, begin with 1 day a week of a planned strength training-based workout:
  • Bodyweight Training
  • Weight Lifting
  • Circuit Training and HIIT (Helps increase intensity, save time, and incorporates some cardio too!)

It is recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) to strength train a minimum of 2 times per week. 

Shameless plug: If you are looking to start a safe and effective strength training routine or your current routine isn’t yielding the results that you would like, please reach out to me at ssarge@ampersandintegrative.com.

 

2. Aerobic Training (Cardio)

Aerobic training increases the rate of your heartbeat and breath. This is why this type of training is associated with your heart, which runs your cardiovascular systems (That’s why it’s called Cardio). As your heart rate and rate of breathing increases, your heart adapts to keep up with demand. The adaptation strengthens your heart and it is able to pump blood more efficiently. This lowers heart rate, blood pressure and increases your body’s ability to use oxygen! 

Speaking of your heart’s ability to pump blood, a 2015 study showed that aerobic training is the superior method to reducing your blood pressure. As blood pressure decreases, your risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases decreases as well!

 

Examples of Cardio Activates:
  • Walking
  • Running
  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Leisure Sports
  • High Intensity Interval Training

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes moderate intensity cardio (light sweat, still able to speak full sentences) or 75 minutes of vigorous cardio (demanding, higher intensity, and inability to have a full conversation) a week. Examples of vigorous cardio includes: running, swimming laps, hiking, and high intensity interval training.

 

3. Stretching

Stretching is another form of activity that can improve your heart health and function. In an indirect way, when you stretch and improve your flexibility and mobility, this allows you to perform strength training and cardio more efficiently, decreasing your chances of injury. In a more direct way, certain forms of stretching, like yoga, can decrease arterial stiffness and lead to weight loss, which in turn decreases your blood pressure! A scientific review from 2020 showed that yoga can decrease blood pressure in individuals suffering from high blood pressure.

When you begin any physical activity, it is important to do some form of dynamic stretching. These are active and moving stretches done to get you ready for the activity you are about to complete. After activity or outside of activity, static stretching is performed. This type of stretching is done when you hold a certain position to stretch out a specific muscle or muscle groups. Try to limit static stretching before exercise as it may limit your performance.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends performing stretching 2-3 times per week, however daily stretching will yield the greatest results!

 

Breathing

Finally, yet I think the most important aspect to all 3 of these recommendations, is to focus on your breathing! Your breath is what brings oxygen, a vital resource, into your body. If you stop breathing, you stop moving. Focus on deeper belly breathing to begin and maintain a steady breath while exercising and stretching. Holding your breath can limit your results and bring on unwanted symptoms like headaches and excessive pressure!

 

Like always, when starting a new fitness routine, it is highly recommended that you consult with your physician and/or a fitness professional.

Questions on how you can get started or begin working with a highly qualified personal trainer? 

Reach out to me via email at ssarge@ampersandintegrative.com

 

 

Resources
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3645500/
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm#:~:text=One%20person%20dies%20every%2036,1%20in%20every%204%20deaths.&text=Heart%20disease%20costs%20the%20United,year%20from%202014%20to%202015
  3. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamacardiology/article-abstract/2737412
  4. https://www.prescriptiontogetactive.com/static/pdfs/resistance-training-ACSM.pdf
  5. https://medcraveonline.com/JACCOA/effects-of-aerobic-versus-resistance-training-on-blood-pressure-in-hypertensive-patients.html
  6. https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/publications-files/acsm-guidelines-download-10th-edabf32a97415a400e9b3be594a6cd7fbf.pdf?sfvrsn=aaa6d2b2_0
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5433109/
  8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0965229919315821
  9. https://www.nsca.com/education/articles/kinetic-select/static-stretching-and-performance/
  10. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/fulltext/2016/09000/flexibility_exercises_and_performance.4.aspx
  11. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx

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