The Importance of Heart Health

For many of us the start of the new year means making resolutions. Maybe your resolution is to
lose weight, or to be more responsible, or to be more positive about the pandemic, or you’ve
decided to quit smoking. Or maybe you’ve been learning a new language, or reading, or
ballroom dancing throughout your house while you watch less Netflix. Whether it is your
resolution or not (or maybe you’ve even given up or forgotten already), it’s time to prioritize
your health. The first step to better health is just that — a step.

It’s February, which is Heart Health month. Staying healthy is a top priority now more than
ever, and this starts with your heart! One of the top ways to improve your cardiovascular health
is through exercise. This might sound intimidating to some. If you are new to exercising, this
doesn’t mean anyone expects you to suddenly run a marathon. Starting to exercise requires
guidance and strategy. It also takes some patience and dedication on your end. Think of this as
a prescription much like those other medications you take for your health.  If you are at all
nervous, just pop into the clinic and talk to your doctor to make sure it’s safe for you!

Let’s start with the basics. Ideally, your regimen would incorporate three key types of exercise –
aerobic (something that makes your heart race), strength (muscle building) and mobility (range
of motion). You also want to be sure to dedicate time to a warm up and cool down before each
session. Next, think about how to incorporate this into your week – mainly frequency, intensity,
and time per session. A great starter plan for someone new to exercise would be a brisk walk
three times each week for 20-30 minutes each session. Stretch before and after sessions to
work on your mobility and help prevent injury. Once this is solidified into your routine, add in a
short circuit on the alternating days and gradually expand this to give you that strengthening
component. Depending on your fitness level, this can range from seated leg raises, to standing
up from a chair, or even to bodyweight squats. Using bands and light weights are great for
things like bicep curls and other arm exercises. Get creative with the things you have at home –
use soup cans if you don’t have a home gym or weights.

The best exercise is one that you will stick with. Pick something that you enjoy but also
something that fits into your life. Schedule it into your week. Think carefully about barriers that
keep you from exercising and how you can knock these down. Maybe include your significant
other or your friend. Create a bit of a competition. Have someone hold you accountable.

The benefits of exercise don’t stop at your heart. Regular physical activity can help lower your
blood pressure, improve your blood sugar control, lower your cholesterol, help you lose weight,
improve your sleep, help manage depression and anxiety, decrease your fall risk, improve your
bone health… The list goes on and on! I’m sure everyone can find something in this list that is
relevant and important to them. If nothing else, maybe you can swap a walking routine for one
of your medications in a few months! What’s better motivation than that?

Good luck and get moving!