February is National Heart Month – Exercise

February is National Heart Month – Exercise

ExerciseEXERCISE is one of the best things you can do for your heart! Regular physical activity can help improve your existing heart problems (if you have any), reduces stress, slims your waistline, improves circulation, and improves your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Another benefit of exercise is increased energy levels (even though it sounds contrary to what you may think, exercising may tire you out for a minute but you’ll feel much more energized in the end!).

Check with your doctor before you begin an exercise program, especially if you have ever had heart problems. If you do have heart problems or have ever had a heart attack, consider enrolling in a Cardiac Rehab program that offers medically supervised exercise sessions with doctors, nurses, and dietitians following your progress and keeping you motivated.

Here are some good tips for starting an exercise program:

  • Wear comfortable clothes & good shoes that are made for walking or running.
  • Start slowly. Gradually build to at least 30 minutes of activity, five or more times per week. If you don’t have a full 30 minutes, try two 15-minute sessions or three 10-minute sessions a day to meet your goal.
  • Make a plan of when you are going to exercise each day & write it on your calendar.
  • Drink a cup of water before, during & after exercising (check with the doctor to see if you need a fluid restriction).
  • Ask family & friends to join you. You’ll be more likely to keep exercising.
  • Note your activities on a calendar or in a log book. Write down the distance or length of time of your activity & how you feel after each session. If you miss a day, plan a make-up day or add 10–15 minutes to your next session.
  • Use variety to keep your interest up. Walk one day, swim the next time, then go for a bike ride on the weekend. Put a CD in the player & dance!
  • Look for chances to be more active during the day. Walk the mall before shopping, choose a flight of stairs over an escalator or elevator, or take 10–15 minute walking breaks while watching TV or sitting for some other activity.
  • Wear a pedometer & try to have 10,000 steps by the end of the day. My goal every day is 10,000 steps, so I walk as much as I can all day then make up the difference that night on the treadmill or on the road (or by running around my apartment to music).


  • Get discouraged if you stop for awhile. Get started again gradually & work up to your old pace.
  • Especially if you have heart problems, don’t do isometric exercises that require holding your breath, bearing down or sudden bursts of energy. Also avoid lifting weights & competitive or contact sports.
  • Engage in any activity that causes chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or lightheadedness. If these happen, stop what you’re doing right away.
  • Exercise right after meals, when it’s very hot or humid, or when you just don’t feel up to it.

Information from: American Heart Association