Exercising for a Healthier Heart
Exercising frequently is one of the best things you can do for your heart. Cardiovascular fitness allows the heart and blood vessels to supply the body with the oxygen it needs during rest and exercise. A fit person will be able to carry out daily activities with little or no fatigue. You also will be able to respond to physical and emotional stress without an excessive increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program to see if you have any exercise restrictions.
Make Exercise a Permanent Part of Your Life
It is important to design a life-long home exercise routine. Walking is one of the easiest and most convenient options, but there may be others you enjoy. Cardiovascular exercise should be continuous and rhythmical. It should be done at a comfortable pace. The “no pain, no gain” principle does not apply. If you stick with a regular, consistent program, you can expect these rewards:
- More energy and endurance (stamina) throughout the day
- Improved appearance
- a slimmer, trimmer body
- better blood flow throughout your body
- better posture
- less body fat
- increased muscle tone
- lower heart rate and blood pressure
- more blood pumped out of the heart with each beat
How to Design an Exercise Program
Your exercise plan should be based on the FITT principle:
- Frequency of training
- Intensity of training
- Time of training
- Type of training
To improve and maintain your fitness level, you should exercise three to five days a week. Diabetics need to exercise seven days a week to help control blood sugar levels. People who only exercise “every once in a while” have a greater risk of exercise-related heart attack compared to those who work out more regularly, according to a report from the American Heart Association.
You will get the most benefit for your heart when you exercise hard enough to get your heart rate (pulse) 20 points above resting.
Your doctor may recommend a specific number (pulse rate) for how fast your heart should beat for safe exercise. This is called your target heart rate. Slow down if you get above this heart rate. If you are not in cardiac rehab, ask you doctor about your target heart rate. Exercising above your target heart rate increases the risk of problems and is not advised for people with heart disease.
There are two ways to tell if you are working out safely:
Talk Test: You should be able to talk normally while exercising. If you are too short of breath to carry on a conversation, you are working too hard. Slow down.
Target Heart Rate: You should keep your target heart rate within the range given to you by your doctor or cardiac rehab staff.
|How to Take Your Pulse|
|Your pulse or heart rate is the number of times your heart beats in one minute. Checking your pulse will help you and your doctor know how your heart is handling the exercise. Your nurse can help you find your pulse. It is found at the wrist below the base of the thumb.
You also can take your pulse on your neck between your voice box and the big muscle on the side of your neck.
Use the pads of your first two to three fingers, not your thumb. Press gently until you can count the beats and feel the rhythm of the pulse. Using a watch or clock with a second hand, count how many beats you feel in 10 seconds. Multiply the number you get by six to get the number of beats in one minute, which is your pulse rate. If your pulse feels slow, fast or jumps around, count the beats for one full minute (60 seconds).
Practice counting your pulse. Practice is necessary to assure accuracy, especially with exercise.
If you are just starting an exercise program, begin with 5 to 10 minutes of exercise, four times a day. Add 5 minutes more each week until you are able to do 30 to 60 minutes once a day, three to five times a week.
The best kind of exercise is aerobic. This exercise is done by using your arms and/or legs in a continuous, rhythmic movement in order to increase your heart rate (pulse). Aerobic activities include:
- Skating (ice or roller)
- Stationary bike
Pick an aerobic exercise that you enjoy, and you will most likely keep doing it on a regular basis. Other activities (sports, gardening, shopping, housework, etc.) help improve your overall fitness, but will not improve your heart health for long-term benefits.
Tracking Your Progress
One of the easiest ways to monitor your progress is to write down what you do. Keep track of:
- weight (record once a week)
- blood pressure (if you have a home monitoring kit)
- minutes of exercise each day
- symptoms. Are you having any symptoms that would be of concern? If so, be sure to contact your doctor
- glucose values (for people with diabetes)
How to Exercise
Each exercise session should start with a warm-up and stretching, and end with a cool-down and stretching. Wear comfortably fitting shoes with soft soles. The shoes should not rub or chafe against your feet.
Warm-up: A warm-up helps the body prepare for aerobic exercise by slowly raising the body’s temperature and pulse. This is best done by walking or bicycling slowly for 5 minutes.
Stretching: After doing 5 minutes of warmup, you should stretch to prevent injury. To stretch properly, stretch the muscle and hold that position for 10 to 30 seconds (don’t bounce). Breathe normally during the stretch – do not hold your breath.
Aerobic Exercise: Aerobic exercise can make all the muscles in your body stronger, including your heart. See types of aerobic exercise in the previous column.
Cool-Down: The reason for a cool-down is to help the body return to a resting state. End your exercise session by slowing down your exercise for 5 minutes. Then repeat the stretching exercises that you did during your warm-up. This takes away the waste products that build up during exercise and helps reduce muscle soreness. The cooldown time slowly lowers you heart rate and blood pressure, helps prevent injuries and reduces the pooling of blood in your legs. Some experts believe this is the most important part of your workout.
Stop exercising and tell your doctor if you have any of these symptoms during, or even several hours after, exercise:
- chest discomfort
- rapid heart beat
- jaw discomfort
- arm discomfort
- upper back discomfort
- unusual shortness of breath
- sudden weakness
- severe or unusual fatigue
- severe discomfort of any kind.
Hints for a Successful Exercise Program
- Set short- and long-term goals for yourself. Reward yourself when you meet them.
- Frequently review the benefits of exercise for you.
- Exercise with music or in front of the television.
- Wait one hour after eating before exercising.
- Pick an exercise you like that fits into your lifestyle.
- Exercise with a friend for both safety and motivation.
- Follow the walking guidelines below.
|When you first come home from the hospital, you should begin to walk daily. If you are feeling extremely tired and ill on a given day, you can skip that day. Walk at a comfortable, easy pace.
Follow these guidelines:
Listen to your body. If you develop any form of chest discomfort, extreme shortness of breath, dizziness, sudden weakness or excessive sweating, stop and rest five minutes or until the symptoms go away. Call your doctor if the symptoms do not go away completely, or if you have these symptoms again.
As your body grows stronger after you leave the hospital, you should increase to a moderate, steady walking pace. Follow your doctor’s orders or the instructions given to you.