A month to change your heart: Day 24

Is exercising aerobically enough?  We know that it is good for the heart, and we have talked about this extensively during the past 3 weeks.  But, muscular strength and flexibility is also important, and may even help your appearance.

Heavy strength training (big-time weight lifting) is not a great idea for people with high blood pressure or heart disease.   Weight training is called anaerobic exercise, and the straining involved in suddenly lifting extreme weights can raise your blood pressure, and put a strain on the heart.  But, muscular endurance training (a fancy term for gentle weight lifting) is another thing entirely, and is a great thing to add to your program.  Building muscular strength and endurance will help prevent injury, increase your muscle mass, help increase your metabolism, and make you look better in the mirror.

This kind of lifting, using less resistance (lower weights) and more repetitions will give you a nice toning effect along with better endurance. 

Here are some guidelines:

Lifting weights:

  1. Frequency:  Muscular endurance workouts should be done 2 or 3 times per week, and you should skip a day between workouts.  This allows your muscles to recover
  2. Intensity:  Start gently with a lower weight than you think you can lift.  You should be able to do 15 repetitions comfortably before fatiguing to the point that you have to stop
  3. Time or duration: Each set of repetitions should be ideally done twice when you first get start, and no more than three times.  Do each set in a smooth, steady, slow manner and continue this through the entire range of motion.  Concentrate on breathing normally.  Do not hold your breath when lifting weights.
  4. Warm up before lifting by doing your aerobic workout first.  At a minimum, try to do an aerobic (cardiovascular) activity of at least 10-15 minutes, as well as stretching, before you begin lifting weight

Stretching:

  1. Stretching should be done after you have done some aerobic activity. Movement should be light, with steady pressure to the point of mild discomfort, not pain
  2. Never bounce while stretching.  This makes your muscles tighter and can cause injury
  3. Focus more on how the stretch feels, rather than how far you are stretching.  Don’t compare your stretching to anyone else- we are all different.
  4. Hold all stretches to the point of mild discomfort for 30 seconds.  This will lead to elongation of the muscle fibers that you are trying to stretch.  If you do not hold the stretch long enough, the muscle will recoil, and go right back to where you started
  5. Try to breathe  deeply when you are stretching, which can quiet and relax your body

Adding muscular endurance training is one of the last pieces of the puzzle that we are trying to complete in these 29 days.  When you combine it with a good aerobic activity like walking, jogging, swimming, or biking, you are well on the way toward a healthy heart

On the 24th day of this program, my doctor said to me:

  1. Building muscular strength and endurance by lifting weights will help prevent injury, increase your muscle mass, help increase your metabolism, and make you look better in the mirror.
  2. Muscular endurance workouts should be done 2 or 3 times per week, and you should skip a day between workouts.  This allows your muscles to recover
  3. Warm up before lifting by doing your aerobic workout first. 
  4. Stretching is important.  Hold all stretches to the point of mild discomfort for 30 seconds.  This will lead to elongation of the muscle fibers that you are trying to stretch. 

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