A month to change your heart: Day 13

Did you ever wonder what an optimal exercise program would be for your heart?  Studies have found that exercise that uses about 2,000 calories per week – which equates to  4 or 5 sessions a week --  can make you live longer.  It does not have to be extremely vigorous exercise. In fact,  too much intense or prolonged exercise, like some marathoners do, can be bad for your heart.

In the Copenhagen City Heart Study, joggers who ran 1 to 2.5 hours per week, even at a slow pace, had  71% lower risk of dying when compared to sedentary people.  An easy pace was defined as light jogging at an average pace of 5 miles per hour. That is a 12 minute mile, which is an achievable goal for many.

Continuous exercise is best for your heart, much better than interval training.  Keeping your heart rate elevated for a sustained period of time is best for your blood vessels, as it allows them to expand, and helps your blood pressure

  1. Start with a 5 or 10 minute warmup, a low intensity version of the exercise of the day, followed by five minutes of stretching. 
  2.  Do the aerobic exercise of your choice, ideally for 30-45 minutes.  You should be able to speak comfortably when you are exercising.  Walking, jogging, swimming, biking, elliptical, and skating are all examples of good aerobic exercise. If you like to run, consider slow jogging at no more than a 10-minute mile, a recent study suggests.
  3. If you want to add anaerobic exercise (weight lifting), do it after aerobic activity.  Light lifting for strength and tone is best as we grow older, with more repetitions and less emphasis on adding weight.
  4. Cool down:  Gradually decrease your speed for 3-5 minutes at the end of the workout.

Of course, if you simply cannot manage this level of exercise, just do what you can.  Sitting is bad for you, and being active is good.  But don’t let an inability to exercise derail you from maintaining a healthy diet and stress relief program, the other key pillars of our program.

Next week, I will add some suggestions about workout intensity, targeting a heart rate, and how to know if you are pushing too hard

On the thirteenth day of Change of Heart, my doctor said to me:

  1. The optimal exercise program for the heart means 4 or 5 sessions a week, for a total calorie burn of about 2,000 weekly.
  2. In the Copenhagen City Heart Study, joggers who ran 1 to 2.5 hours per week, even at a slow pace, had a 71% lower risk of dying when compared to sedentary people.  An easy pace was defined as light jogging at an average pace of 5 miles per hour.
  3. Warming up and winding down is important to prevent injuries
  4. Anaerobic exercise such as gentle weight lifting is best done after you do your aerobic activity.

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