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Heart candies, heart shaped valentines and chocolate hearts are everywhere this time of year, but the heart that should be getting your undivided attention everyday is the one in your chest that works 24/7 to power your body and fuel your internal system. As the powerhouse of your body, the heart needs to run in tip-top shape for overall health and fitness. To celebrate National Heart Month this February, give your heart and body the gift of longevity and health by starting a heart healthy fitness regimen that focuses on metabolic cardiovascular exercises and combines muscle pumping strength workouts with healthy nutrition choices.
A strong heart drives a healthy body and metabolic cardiovascular training is the key to not only living a heart healthy lifestyle, but also to feel better, look better and perform better throughout your life. Although nutrition and strength training are important elements to physical fitness, you can’t rely solely on one or the other to achieve overall health and fitness well-being. A recent study from Duke University found that when compared with strength training alone, cardio exercise is the most efficient and effective way to lose the belly fat located deep within the abdominal cavity, which is the kind of fat that is the most damaging to your health and heart. Specifically, aerobic training burned 67 percent more calories in the study when compared to strength/resistance training.1
The first step to a healthy you is establishing a strong cardiovascular foundation to jumpstart your body’s metabolism, increase stamina and energize your body’s cells by pumping oxygen rich blood throughout your body. This leads to not only burning away excess fat, but lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, and reducing the risk of heart attack and cardiovascular disease. Studies show that high intensity metabolic training in particular is a leading force to reducing heart attack risk and improving physical fitness. In fact, a recent study from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) found that three hours per week of vigorous exercise can cut a man’s risk of heart attack by 22 percent.2 High intensity cardio exercises can range from wind sprints to moving jump squats and plyometrics.
While cardio training is king to heart healthy fitness, strength training is an integral counterpart to attaining optimal health and fitness. Strength/resistance exercise allows for developing and maintaining muscular fitness, strength and lean body mass gains, as well as strengthening of connective tissues, increased bone mass and metabolic rate.
Heart healthy exercises that fuel your body with lasting benefits long after you’ve left the gym don’t have to eat up your entire day. As little as 15 minutes a day of metabolic cardio training, combined with 15 minutes of strength intervals, may be all you need. According to industry studies, 15 minutes of total body resistance training can elevate your resting energy and boost metabolism by 6 percent for up to 72 hours,3 and those who added intervals into their fitness routines for two weeks burned 36 percent more fat than those who stuck with traditional exercise routines.4 A 45-minute interval circuit workout that combines a handful of high impact cardio exercises, such as box squat jumps, mountain climbers and burpees, with total body strength exercises, such as weighted lunges with bicep curls and wall sits with shoulder presses, can quickly and effectively build your heart and body’s strength and endurance.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), seven out of ten Americans don’t get enough physical activity on a daily basis. In today’s fast-paced, over scheduled world, carving out time for physical activity can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be if you focus on adding cardio elements into your workouts, as well as your everyday activities. The AHA recommend that healthy adults under the age of 65 engage in moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week or vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, three times a week; paired with strength training exercises.5
Working out regularly with a professional trainer one-on-one or in a small group setting is a critical component to keeping your heart healthy and strong, but complementing your regularly scheduled total body workouts with cardio activities throughout your day also helps to promote a healthy and active lifestyle. The following simple tips will help you get a move on and add heart healthy activities into your daily lifestyle.
● Instead of wasting time searching for the closest parking spot, pull into the furthest spot away from the door and enjoy the extra walk to the building.
● Use the stairs at work and for appointments instead of the elevator.
● Walk or bike your kids to school and use two wheels (or feet) instead of your car when running neighborhood errands.
● Take a 10-minute activity break at work to stretch or take a quick walk.
● Walk to visit co-workers instead of sending an e-mail message.
● Instead of sedentary nights out to the movie theater, take your spouse or friends out for a night of dancing.
You will look better, feel better and perform better mentally and physically if you fuel your body with foods that are nutrient rich and support a strong cardiovascular system. Foods that enhance cardiovascular health can include Mediterranean type foods such as lean proteins, olive oils, dark leafy greens for a strong heart and blood vessels, whole grains and fiber such as oatmeal and brown rice. Researchers also have found evidence that the high levels of antioxidants found in spices with bold flavors such as cinnamon, rosemary, oregano, black pepper and garlic powder can reduce fat levels in your blood linked to heart problems by 30 percent.6
A healthy body and a healthy you start with a healthy heart. Adopting healthy lifestyle habits such as cardio exercises, strength conditioning and healthy eating will not only strengthen your body’s heart and lower your risk of disease, but it also will help you live your life looking, feeling and performing better. Certified personal trainers at Fitness Together are available today to help you get started on living a heart healthy lifestyle. Contact your local Fitness Together studio to begin one-on-one personal training or group PACK training focused on a healthy heart and a healthy you.
1 Duke University Medical Center, The Effects of Aerobic versus Resistance Training on Visceral and Liver Fat Stores, Liver Enzymes and HOMA from STRRIDE AT/RT: A Randomized Trial”, AJP, Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2011.
2American College of Sports Medicine, “Vigorous Physical Activity, Mediating Biomarkers, and Risk of Myocardial Infarction,” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, October 2011.
3European Journal of Applied Physiology, 2011.
4 Journal of Applied Physiology, “Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women,” April 2007.
5American Heart Association, www.heart.org.
6 Pennsylvania State University, “A High Antioxidant Spice Blend Attenuates Postprandial Insulin and Triglyceride Responses and Increases Some Plasma Measures of Antioxidant Activity in Healthy, Overweight Menhttp://jn.nutrition.org/content/early/2011/06/22/jn.111.138966.abstract?cited-by=yes&legid=nutrition;jn.111.138966v1 - fn-1#fn-1,” The Journal of Nutrition, 2011.