By Mark Grevelding
Hearts rule the month of February when Valentine’s Day decorations are everywhere. It is also a good time to focus on your own heart health and the importance of exercise. President Lyndon B. Johnson, who’d had a heart attack himself, proclaimed the first American Heart Month in February 1964. Since then, every February has been declared American Heart Month in an effort to tackle America’s #1 killer – heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 659,00 Americans die from heart disease each year, which equates to 1 in 4 deaths.
Unhealthy lifestyle habits such as lack of exercise and poor diet are leading causes of heart disease. Your heart is a muscle, and its primary job is to pump blood through your circulatory system. Just like any muscle in your body, it becomes weaker in the absence of exercise. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate to intense aerobic activity, as well as resistance training on at least two days a week. According to both the CDC and AHA, the combination of aerobic exercise and strength training is an ideal way to increase good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol (LDL).
Exercise for Your Heart
According to the AHA, examples of moderate to intense aerobic activity include brisk walking, water aerobics, biking, tennis, swimming and dancing. Resistance training can include free weights, machines or bodyweight exercises, such as squats, push-ups and sit-ups. Just don’t forget about flexibility training. Stretching may not influence your heart health directly, but a lack of flexibility can put you into a cycle of injury that limits your exercise activities.
Obviously, my exercise recommendation would be to head to your nearest pool and get moving. The lessened impact and the water’s resistance combine to make pool workouts a safe and effective form of heart-healthy exercise. Additionally, the water’s compressive forces, known as hydrostatic pressure, can positively impact the vascular and respiratory systems and allow people to exercise with a lower working heart rate.
Whatever you choose, all exercise activities are good as long as they are performed safely and within your physical abilities. February is a good month to either commit or recommit yourself to heart-healthy exercise.
Mark Grevelding is the founder of PoolFit, a fitness app and website that includes over 120 water fitness & in-home workouts suitable for older adults.