February 7, 2013
Between celebrating American Heart Month and Valentine’s Day, February is the perfect time to give your heart some love and learn how to keep it in great shape all year long!
Eric Fetterman, a physical therapist at ATI Physical Therapy in Elkton, MD, joins us today to offer these tips on heart healthy exercises.
“The best thing you can do for your heart is go for a walk,” says Eric. “It helps out with the cardio-pulmonary system and helps keep everything moving.”
If you aren’t able to walk because of an injury, Eric suggests any of these activities to get your heart rate up:
- Bike: If your lower extremities can’t handle walking, consider hopping on a bike. Biking (even stationary bikes) helps take pressure off your knees and joints and allows you to get in great exercise.
- Pump your legs: Stuck at a desk all day? Eric suggests pumping your ankles under your desk or kicking your knees out straight a few times a day, which promotes better blood flow.
- Park far away: No spots close to the door? No problem! Park far away and your heart will appreciate those extra steps you’re taking.
- Take the stairs: When given the option, should you take a) the elevator, b) the escalator, or c) the stairs? The answer is…the stairs! (Within reason, of course – no need to take 30 flights of stairs to your office on the top floor!) This is one of the simplest ways to get your heart rate up during the day and usually saves you time from waiting for the elevator.
How much, how often, and how long?
With our busy schedules, it’s difficult to imagine where we can fit in extra exercise. Eric offers these suggestions that even the busiest among us can benefit from…
- Exercise doesn’t have to be continuous: The American Heart Association suggests that you exercise for 30 minutes each day, but you don’t have to do it all at once. Break it up into small intervals – five extra minutes of walking from your car to your office door in the morning, five minutes up and down stairs throughout the day, a ten-minute walk over your lunch break, five minutes of knee raises in the late afternoon, and a five-minute walk when you take your dog out in the evening…30 minutes done!
- Be active more days in the week than not: Eric tells patients to try to be active more days in the week than not, which typically equates to 3 or 4 days per week of exercise.
- Find a half hour: Aim to exercise for 30 minutes each day. If you are doing high-intensity interval training, this may be a little shorter, as your workout will be more vigorous than a brisk walk.
Don’t overdo it
Exercise is great, but moderation and recovery time is important as well.
- Set small, realistic goals: If you want to walk a mile within a month, start small. Add a bit of distance to your walk and slowly work towards your goal.
- Take time for recovery: Adequate recovery time is especially important if you’re new to regular physical activity or if you’re engaging in vigorous workouts. Your body needs time to recover, even during exercise itself. If you’re engaging in interval training, take adequate breaks between exercise sets to get your heart rate back down.
- Aim for 65%-80% capacity: You don’t need to work your heart at its full capacity during exercise…in fact, you should avoid working yourself that hard on a regular basis! Instead, try to stay within 65%-80% of your heart’s capacity for healthy exercise.