The heart is a muscle and needs exercise just as much as other muscles in the body, but just how much exercise is enough to maintain good health?
Similar to a prescription for any medication, exercise can be prescribed for the prevention, treatment and/or control of almost any chronic condition, according to Amanda Zaleski, PhD, an exercise physiologist with the Department of Preventive Cardiology at the Heart & Vascular Institute at Hartford Hospital. She noted that there are simple guidelines to help determine how much, how hard, how long and what type of exercise can help people wanting to prevent or treat heart disease risk factors.
“We now know exercise does not have to be an all-or-nothing approach,” she said. “Even small bouts of exercise, as little as three minutes, can lower blood pressure or blood sugar levels and, over time, these little changes are significant.”
Dr. Zaleski suggested finding an activity you enjoy so you’ll be more likely to maintain a routine. Ideas include:
- Walking, either outdoors or inside at a mall or gym.
- Bike riding.
- Climbing stairs at home.
- Dance class.
- Tai chi and yoga.
- Water aerobics.
“The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week, plus moderate- to high-intensity muscle strengthening activity two to three days a week” Dr. Zaleski said.
For adults with existing cardiovascular, pulmonary and/or metabolic disease, she said those recommendations can be modified as an “exercise prescription” to optimize the influence exercise can have on these various risk factors.
“Our heart is a muscle and its only job is to pump blood,” she said. “Regular movement helps the heart muscle maintain its strength and can contribute to improved heart function, circulation, blood pressure and cholesterol rates. Even if adults are taking medications, exercise can magnify the effects medications can have on heart disease risk factors and this combination translates to better overall health.”
Now you can find out exactly how often you should exercise, the intensity, the time and the type of exercise required to prevent or treat heart disease risk factors. Join Dr. Zaleski for the Walk to Wellness on Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 8:30 am at the Westfarms Rest and Relaxation Lounge (Lower Level of Westfarms mall near Nordstrom). The presentation, “Optimal Exercise Prescription for Heart Health,” includes breakfast and free blood pressure screenings.
Here’s the schedule:
8:30-9 am: Presentation
9-9:30 am: Breakfast at California Pizza Kitchen