February is heart health month and is as good a time as any to take inventory of the things you are doing to stay heart-healthy. If you are eating smart – great – but know that eating a low-fat, nutrient-rich diet isn’t enough to keep your body’s largest muscle healthy.
Exercise is absolutely essential to staying healthy. You have to move! And it’s no secret: You can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke if you eat right AND exercise.
Now, how much you should exercise is a good question to discuss with your doctor or healthcare provider. What you do and for how long depends on several things, including your current state of health. Most exercise plans call for at least 30 minutes a day, but I advise my patients to follow the 50 plus 5 rule - exercise 50 minutes, five days a week.
That’s because your heart is really pumping when you’ve been exercising for at least that long. The best exercises for your heart are those that get your heart beating faster.
Each time your heart beats, it pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout your body so your cells have the oxygen they need to function well. Why your heart needs exercise is basic: If you exercise a muscle, you strengthen it and keep it in good shape. A good exercise routine will also help you to keep your weight down. It’s a win-win situation: Exercise can help control other heart disease risk factors too, including high cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension.
For these reasons, exercise is a part of my own prescription for health. I run more than 25 miles a week and swim and bicycle to stay healthy and maintain my 55-pound weight loss of a few years ago.
All of us can benefit from some more exercise. But take note of this very important tip: Make sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise plan. Below you will find a few exercises you might consider.
Oh, and don’t forget to exercise safe!
Aerobic Exercises for Heart Health
- Cross-country skiing
- Jumping rope
- Running in place
Courtesy of David E. Jacob, M.D. chief of cardiology, Saint Peter’s University Hospital. Visit www.saintpetershcs.com/findaphysician to find a cardiologist or call 732-745-8576.