Regular exercise is one of the basic ingredients for maintaining a healthy heart, but in this day and age where everything is drive-through, Web-accessible or technology-enabled, the need for human movement has diminished.
However sedentary our lifestyle lets us be, our bodies need activity to stay healthy. It is no good having all you need at your fingertips if your organs are unhealthy.
WebMD advocates cardiovascular exertion as the most effective exercise, with stretching and weight training playing a supporting role.
Always consult your health professional before undertaking any form of exercise.
The Franklin Institute's Center for Innovation in Science Learning offers some tips to help on the road to heart health that can be incorporated into everyday life. These include taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking as far as possible from your destination so that you have to walk and putting extra effort into housework to make it more strenuous.
While these tips are a good start, nothing beats a regular exercise routine, and it is important to choose something that you will enjoy so that you stay motivated to stick with. Good forms of cardiovascular exercise include swimming, which is an overall body workout and which really gets your heart pumping. Walking, when done with purpose, can be one of the most effective ways to keep your heart healthy. Running is well known for its overall health benefits and has a great impact on heart health in particular.
If you prefer to exercise at a gym there are always a great number of aerobic classes to choose from, including spinning, aerobics, Tae-bo and many more. You can also join a dance group and learn salsa or ballroom dancing, both of which are extremely good cardiovascular exercises and an added benefit is the social interaction that is an inherent part.
The American Heart Association advises that whichever option you choose, to be effective you must do it regularly, three to four times a week, for a minimum of 30 minutes and it must increase your heart rate for the duration. You can also break your exercise sessions down to 10 minutes three times a day, if necessary.
In order to ensure your muscles work to their best during aerobic exercise it is important to warm them up first, and this is where stretching comes in as a support exercise to aerobic activity. There are a number of different stretches you can do to target all the different muscle groups and WebMD offers some of the most effective ones to try.
The Franklin Institute says that while it is possible to attain a certain type of fitness with weight training, unless it is done in conjunction with aerobic exercise it will not have much of an impact on heart health.
It is therefore important to ensure that weight training is done in support of your cardiovascular exercise to ensure maximum benefits for your overall fitness as well as that of your heart.
According to the American Heart Association a lack of exercise is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke and is strongly linked to heart attacks.
The heart is a muscle and so, the stronger it is the more effective it will be in pumping blood around the body, improving oxygen transport and circulation. Also the more physical activity we do the better chance we have of lowering our blood pressure, and the less pressure there is on the heart the healthier it will be.
Physical activity gives us more energy to cope with our daily lives which means that we will feel less stress and thus reduce our chances of developing heart disease. So look after your heart by getting up and getting moving.
By Kelly Herdrich, Contributing writer
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