Keeping your heart healthy is always important. But, this week it takes on a special significance. This just happens to be Cardiac Rehab Week and one of our members, Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital in Prescott Valley, put together a guest blog on the importance of good heart health habits…..particularly exercise. Once you’ve had a chance to read the blog, let us know what you think! Generating meaningful dialogue around the health issues affecting the people of our state is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!
According to Strava, a social network for athletes, most people by now have given up on their New Year’s resolutions (“Quitters’ Day” was officially Jan. 12). For those who may have fallen victim to that day, here is something to consider: According to the American Heart Association, moderate-intensity exercise is important in preventing heart disease and stroke, which are the nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers respectively.
So, how do you gauge if your exercise is at the “moderate” level? First, pay attention to how hard you think your body is working (this is called perceived exertion). Take note of how heavy you’re breathing, how much you’re sweating, and how tired your muscles feel. Studies have shown that an individual’s perceived exertion correlates to his or her heart rate. This means that if you feel like you’re working hard, your heart rate is probably higher.
You can estimate if you’re reaching the moderate-intensity level of an activity by using perceived exertion. In general, on a scale of 1-20, a moderate-intensity activity would feel like an 11-14. Other clues of this level of exercise include:
- Breaking a light sweat at about 10 minutes into the exercise
- Quickened breathing, but you’re not out of breath
- Being able to carry on a conversation while performing the activity
Moderate-intensity exercises can include brisk walking, biking, pushing a lawn mower, water aerobics, doubles tennis, gardening, and ballroom dancing, among other activities. So, take your pick, just get up and get moving.
Extended sitting is another challenge to health that most of us face. According to Annals of Internal Medicine, more than half of the average person’s waking hours are spent sitting: watching television, working at a computer, commuting, or doing other physically inactive pursuits. But all that sitting could be sending us to an early grave—even those folks who exercise up to an hour a day, say the Canadian researchers who did the study.
Their findings were gleaned from 47 studies that looked at the health effects of sedentary behavior. The researchers adjusted for other types of activity people did, from leisure-time activities to vigorous exercise. Over the course of these studies, people who sat for prolonged periods of time had a higher risk of dying from all causes — even those who exercised regularly. The negative effects were even more pronounced in people who did little or no exercise.
Exactly how sitting a lot contributes to poor health isn’t clear. But some research suggests that it has harmful effects on sugar and fat metabolism, both of which affect a person’s risk of diabetes and heart disease, says Dr. I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The authors of the Annals study offered tips for sitting less, such as standing or moving around for one to three minutes every half hour while you’re at work. “There are lots of apps you can use on your phone or computer that will sound an alarm to remind you,” says Dr. Lee. Standing or exercising when watching TV — even just during commercials —is another popular tip, as is standing when talking on the phone. “The key is to make these things habits that you do without thinking about, like brushing your teeth,” says Dr. Lee.