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Starting an Active Routine

Active Routine

If
you’ve recently had a heart attack or you’re at risk for one, your doctor may
recommend starting an exercise program. Making major lifestyle changes can be frustrating
and daunting—especially if you’ve developed your current habits over a number
of years or decades. With a full plate of work and family responsibilities, you
may worry about finding the time to be more active.

Although
the road to a more active lifestyle can be challenging, physical activity is a
vital component in managing your heart condition and prolonging your life.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), exercising regularly when
you have heart disease is important for several reasons. Exercise can help you:

  • strengthen your heart muscle
  • lower your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • control your blood sugar
  • lose and maintain body weight
  • keep your bones strong
  • feel better physically and mentally

When
it comes to exercise, a little can go a long way. The secret to successfully
starting an exercise routine that will help you maintain your heart health is
to ease into it gradually and pace yourself. It’s important to work with your
doctor closely when developing an exercise program. This is especially crucial
if you’ve recently had a heart attack or heart procedure. Your doctor can help
determine which activities are right for you and set limits around how much you
can do based on your condition.

Talk
to your doctor before you increase your activity level if you have diabetes or
have been having chest pain or pressure or shortness of breath. Once you’ve identified
the types of activities that are right for you, consider these pointers from
NIH and the American Heart Association (AHA) on how to safely begin a more
active routine.

AHA Exercise Guidelines

How
much is too much and what is not enough? The AHA recommends 30 minutes a day,
five days a week of moderate exercise. However, if you haven’t been exercising
regularly, you’ll likely need to work your way up to that length of time. You
can divide your workouts up into two or three 10 to 15 minute sessions per day
for an equally effective workout.

The
best type of exercise for your heart is aerobic exercises like walking, jogging,
swimming, or biking. Aerobic activity works your heart and lungs for an
extended period of time, which allows your heart to utilize oxygen better and
improves blood flow. Begin with a simple walking program before trying more
vigorous types of activities. According to the AHA, studies show that life
expectancy may increase by two hours for each hour spent walking. Additionally,
walking has been shown to be the single most effective form of exercise to
achieve heart health in as little as 30 minutes per day.

Pace Yourself

Now
that you know the amount of exercise to aim for, how should you approach your
workouts? NIH recommends beginning any workout with five minutes of “warm-up”
activity. Stretching, limbering, and moving around gently will prepare your
muscles and your heart for exercise. The goal of exercising should be to
gradually raise your fitness level by making your heart work a little harder—but
not too hard—each time you exercise.

Once
you begin your workout, tune in to how you’re feeling. Don’t wait until you’re
exhausted to rest. Take a break before you get too tired. If you feel any
heart-related symptoms such as a tightening in your chest or difficulty
breathing, stop exercising.

Slowly
build up to walking 30 minutes per day, five days per week (or whatever your
doctor recommends). At the end of your workout, take five to 10 minutes to
“cool down,” doing the same activity at a slower pace.

Mind the Details

There’s
more to starting an exercise program than simply walking out the door. The AHA
recommends the following tips to make your new routine more enjoyable and increase
your chance for success:

  • Dress right for the activity
    and the weather.
    Comfortable, weather-resistant clothes and properly fitting athletic
    shoes are essential to avoiding discomfort and possible injury.
  • Keep your expectations
    reasonable.

    Don’t get discouraged if you experience setbacks or stop your routine for a
    while. Slowly ease back into your routine and work your way up to your previous
    pace.
  • Mix it up. Do a variety of activities
    that you enjoy. Once you’ve worked up to a basic level of fitness, your doctor
    may approve of alternating several activities, such as walking, biking, and swimming.
  • Keep a record of your
    progress.
    Log
    your exercise sessions in a journal or calendar. Note the distance or length of
    time you spent exercising and how you felt during and after the activity. This
    will help keep up your motivation by showing you how far you’ve come and will give
    your doctor an idea of what kinds of workouts are appropriate for you.

You
might be surprised by how much you enjoy a more active lifestyle. Not only will
you feel better, fitter, and more confident, but you may save money as well. The
AHA reports that physically active people can save up to $500 per year in
health-related expenses. Take the first step. Talk to your doctor about getting
started with an exercise program to improve your quality of life and your heart
health. 

Posted by: Dr.Health

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