Did you know February is American Heart Month? While maintaining a healthy heart should not be restricted to just this month, we do want to use this time to help you prevent heart disease. Here are some workout tips we gathered after we spoke with Merritt Clubs Fort Avenue Fitness Director Heidi Shaneybrook.
- Always incorporate cardio exercise in your workout. This is essential in keeping your heart healthy. Not only does it burn calories, it helps with lowering blood pressure and preventing heart disease. Cardio strengthens the heart - as its rate increases, blood flow and oxygen flow increase.
- Beginners: Commit to an amount of time per week for cardio exercise. This ensures that you are getting a heart healthy workout. Adds Shaneybrook, “I would recommend 150 minutes per week for some type of cardio exercise. You can break it up, or build up to it.” It can be as simple as walking for 30 minutes in one day. You can also hit one of our clubs and get on the treadmill or join a Cycle class. Using the rowing machine is another fun way to get that heart pumping (recommended damper setting: 4 or 5).
- More advanced? Try HIIT-style cardio. If you have been working out for a while and you're ready for the next level, try something a little more intense. Get on the ropes. Do med ball slams. Run sprints on the treadmill. “So getting your heart rate up to 80% of your max for 30 seconds, recovering and letting it come back down then repeat for 4-5 rounds.”
- Change it up. You probably don't want to stick with the same exercise for 30 minutes every time you do cardio. It's always good to add some variety. Shaneybrook's suggestion: "You can go 10 minutes on the treadmill, 10 minutes on the elliptical, 10 minutes on the rower. Pick three that you like to do and switch it up."
- Don’t get too comfortable. "Increase the pace, or increase the resistance, or increase the incline." As you do more cardio, your heart strengthens and is able to do more. Why would you want to stay at the same level? Improving your workout and challenging yourself will help your heart even more.
- Know your limits. While it's good to push yourself to be able to improve, it's also important to know when when enough is enough. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Always listen to your body and, if possible, check with your doctor as well. One way to help determine your optimal exercise intensity and target heart rate zone is through this page. Utilize your MYZONE belt or another wearable fitness tracker to check your rate during the workout.
Cardio exercise is very important in the prevention of heart disease. Whether you have regular walks or you incorporate med ball slams in your workout, know that you are doing your heart a favor by taking care of it. And with February being American Heart Month, we teamed up with the American Heart Association to help you get moving and get that heart pumping. Click here to see the special programs we have in store this month.