Exercise is vital in keeping your heart healthy. Your heart is a muscle and like other muscles, it’s strengthened through regular physical activity. This spring, make it a priority to stay active and take care of your heart with regular exercise.
There are lots of health benefits associated with exercise. It helps your brain and memory, boosts your immune system, is good for your muscles and bones, helps maintain a healthy weight, decreases your risk of chronic disease, and can even help you sleep better. Most importantly though, it is a key component in keeping your heart healthy. Here are some of the biggest heart benefits from regular exercise:
- Your heart becomes more efficient. It’s able to better pump blood throughout your body by pushing out more blood with each beat. This allows your heart to beat slower and keep your blood pressure under control.
- Your body’s tissue—including your heart—is better able to pull oxygen from your blood. When your heart is able to get oxygen more easily, it works better under stress and keeps you from getting winded during high-intensity activities.
- Your blood will flow better in the small blood vessels around your heart. Clogs in these arteries can lead to heart attacks and exercise helps make sure the blood continues to flow freely.
- Your HDL cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol, levels will increase. HDL cholesterol lowers your risk for heart disease by flushing out LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, that clogs your arteries.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Heart Association recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, preferably spread throughout the week. Aerobic activity, commonly known as “cardio”, gets your heart rate up and benefits your heart by. At moderate intensity, you’ll feel your heart beat faster and you’ll be breathing harder but you’ll still be able to talk.
You don’t have to go to the gym or run a marathon in order to achieve the recommended amount and intensity of physical activity. With the weather warming and signs of spring starting to pop up all over town, it’s the perfect time to start a new exercise routine.
Here are some examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities:
- Brisk walking (at least 2.5 miles per hour). Between the Norwalk Reservoir, the sidewalks in town, and the North Coast Inland Trail, there are plenty of options for a beautiful spring walk here in town.
- Water aerobics. The Ernsthausen Recreation Center offers a variety of exercise classes in the water that are lower impact on your joints than other exercise options.
- Dancing. On a rainy April day turn on the music and have a family dance party in the living room!
- Gardening. It may feel like just a chore, but planting your flowers this spring actually can count towards your weekly activity goal.
- Tennis (doubles). Grab a few friends and head down to Bicentennial Jaycee Park for a friendly tennis match.
- Biking slower than 10 miles per hour. A leisurely bike ride is the perfect way to kick of spring and celebrate the return of warm weather!
Even with all these great activity options, those recommendations can still seem daunting. That’s OK. Don’t feel as if you have to reach 150 minutes a week right away. Start with smaller, more achievable goals. As you reach those goals and get stronger, you can increase your time until you have worked up to the recommended amount of activity. If you think of the recommendation as “all or nothing”, you may get discouraged and keep yourself from doing what you can to work toward a healthier lifestyle. Any amount of movement is better than nothing!
A great way to get started is the Couch to 5K program hosted by Fisher-Titus and Norwalk Park and Rec. Couch to 5K is a free nine-week training program that helps prepare you for your first 5k run/walk and gets you back into a healthy routine. The group meets at various locations throughout Norwalk once a week on Tuesdays from 6-7 p.m. March 26-May 21. The meet ups will consist of a short discussion on a topic related to exercise, nutrition, or staying motivated and a group workout. In addition to the group meet-up each week, training includes an additional two workouts each week on your own. After the nine weeks, you are invited to participate in the Berry Fun 5K Run/Walk Saturday, May 25 at the Strawberry Festival.
By having scheduled times to work out, a group of people working with you, and a goal to work toward, Couch to 5K can help keep you accountable and motivated. The deadline for registration is March 25 and there will also be an informational meeting that day at 6 p.m. Registration forms can be found at www.norwalkrec.com. For more information, contact Niki Cross at (419) 663-6775, ext. 1026 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
With all these great options for staying active right here in Norwalk, you can get started with a healthy new routine this spring. You’ll feel better and you’ll be helping to keep your heart strong and healthy!
About Dr. Gaby Aoun
Dr. Gaby Aoun is a cardiologist at the Snyder/White Heart and Vascular Center at Fisher-Titus. He is board-certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine – Interventional Cardiology, the American Board of Internal Medicine – Cardiovascular Disease, and the American Board of Internal Medicine and has been a practicing cardiologist since 2001.
For more information about the Fisher-Titus Heart & Vascular Center, visit fishertitus.org/heart; to make an appointment with a cardiologist, call 419-660-4707.