Quote: “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” – Confucius
Have you ever taken a moment to thank your heart? Every beat, every pulse, provides oxygen to every other part of the body. Think of the heart as your cheerleader, quite literally pumping you on each day. The heart wants the body to perform at its best, and it works hard to make sure that happens!
In fact, did you know that the average resting heart rate is between 60 to 100 beats per minute?1 If you take the average of that (about 80 beats per minute), that would mean that a human heart beats about 115,000 times a day!2 If your body was a business, the heart would definitely be employee of the month time and time again.
An organ this essential to life should be given 5-star treatment. In honor of American Heart Month, we wanted to understand how to build stronger hearts in order to help us live fuller lives, so we reached out to American Heart Association Volunteer Expert Dr. Mary Ann Bauman, who answered some questions on how to make this happen.
If you were to breakdown how exercise directly affects the heart what would it look like?
Exercise affects the body in many ways. The most common benefits include lowering blood pressure, boosting levels of good cholesterol, improving blood flow (circulation), controlling weight, and helping prevent bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis. Other notable ways that the body is affected by exercise is improved mental health, stress relief, improved sleep, better cognitive function and improved mood.
What is better for the heart – cardio or strength training?
The 2018 Physical Activity Guideline state that for clear health benefits, adults should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity, 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a combination of those activities. In addition, two days per week of moderate to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity are recommended. So, the answer to this question would be both. There are different and important health benefits from both exercises.
What are some of the best exercises for this?
Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities include brisk walking (at least 2.5 miles per hour), water aerobics, dancing (ballroom or social), gardening, tennis (doubles) and biking slower than 10 miles per hour.
Examples of vigorous-intensity aerobic activities include hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack, running, swimming laps, aerobic dancing, heavy yard work like continuous digging or hoeing, tennis (singles), cycling 10 miles per hour or faster and jumping rope.
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How much exercise is ideal for building heart strength?
The recommendation is to move more and not to sweat the numbers. Don’t worry if you can’t reach 150 minutes per week just yet. Everyone has to start somewhere. Even if you’ve been sedentary for years, today is the day you can begin to make healthy changes in your life. Set a reachable goal for today. You can work up toward the recommended amount by increasing your time as you get stronger. Don’t let all-or-nothing thinking keep you from doing what you can every day. The simplest way to get moving and improve your health is to start walking. It’s free, easy and can be done just about anywhere, even in place. Any amount of movement is better than none. And you can break it up into short bouts of activity throughout the day. Taking a brisk walk for five or ten minutes a few times per day will add up.
Are there certain foods that can increase heart strength?
Instead of thinking about foods directly impacting heart strength, it is more important to have commitment to a heart-healthy diet as a whole. Eat an overall healthy dietary pattern that emphasizes a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes and non-tropical vegetable oils. Limit saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, sweets, and sugar-sweetened beverages. If you choose to eat red meat, compare labels and select the leanest cuts available.
For more information on how you can improve your heart health, please heart.org/healthy-living.
- “About.” Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation OMRF, 26 July 2011, omrf.org/2011/07/26/exercise-heartbeats/.
- “How Many Times Does the Heart Beat in a Year? | Heart and Circulatory System.” Sharecare, sharecare.com/health/circulatory-system-health/heart-beat-year.
- “Healthy For Good.” About Heart Attacks, www.heart.org/en/healthy-living.