February is American Heart Month. One of the important ways of protecting your heart health is through physical activity, and regular exercise. Exercise and regular activity are helpful in controlling blood pressure, managing a healthy weight, and staying less stressed emotionally. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends each of us perform some kind of moderate physical activity 30 minutes a day, 5 days out of the week.
What activities count as moderate physical activity? The AHA recommends brisk walking, hiking, bicycling, jogging, stairs, or other organized activities such as team sports or fitness classes. Exercising with a friend or family member can make exercise more enjoyable, and challenging others to exercise with you can motivate both of you to stay consistent with your activities.
To make sure you are exercising at an appropriate intensity, the AHA recommends using a “conversational pace”:
“If you can easily carry on a full conversation and perform the activity at the same time, you probably aren't working hard enough.
If you can exchange brief sentences easily while performing the activity, but not a comfortable or lengthy conversation, your intensity level is likely on target.
If you get out of breath quickly, or if short sentences feel like a strain, you're probably working too hard, especially if you have to stop and catch your breath.”
Start any program gradually, particularly if you have not been active for a while, to avoid overdoing your activity. Also be sure to warm up prior to exercising and cool down after an activity to transition from rest to activity and back.
Scientific studies suggest that physical activity is safe for almost everyone. Healthy adults usually do not need to consult a healthcare provider before performing physical activity, but if you have a chronic condition, particularly cardiovascular disease, you should consult your healthcare provider before starting an exercise activity.
For more information, visit:
Physical Activity and Blood Pressure. American Heart Association. <http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Physical-Activity-and-Blood-Pressure_UCM_301882_Article.jsp>
Get Moving. American Heart Association. <http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/Physical-Activity_UCM_001080_SubHomePage.jsp>