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Exercise for a Happy Heart

By Bren Boston, MD

Human bodies hate being sedentary.  We weren’t designed to be that way.  Even your brain is happier if you exercise.  Exercise lowers your risk of the most common cause of death in the U.S. – heart disease.

Exercise can come in many forms, and they are virtually all good for your heart.   The best regimens will include 3 types of exercise:  

  1.  Aerobic exercise
  2. Resistance exercise
  3. Stretching and balance exercises

Aerobic exercise can be walking to work, dancing in your kitchen, or jumping rope.  

Resistance exercise can be lifting weights, holding body-weight yoga poses, or doing push-ups.  Stretching becomes especially important over age 40 as the ligaments become less elastic and more prone to tearing.  Stretching should include hamstrings, hip flexors, Achilles tendons, shoulders, and finger flexors, which are the most common tendons to get tight.

Balance exercises can include getting up from the floor without using your hands or standing on one foot while you tie your shoes.

Doctors grade levels of exercise using metabolic equivalents (METs).  One MET is the amount of oxygen consumed while sitting at rest.  The amount of oxygen consumed will increase with increasing exercise intensity.  Here are some examples:

ActivityMETs
Jumping Rope Fast12
Running 6.0 mph (10 min/ mile)10
Walking Brisk Up Hills6
Intercourse with Established Partner3-4
Light Housework 2-3
Watching TV1.3

One MET is also the amount of energy (calories) your body uses each minute when sitting still.  When jumping rope, you are burning 12 times as many calories per minute as when sitting quietly.  When running a 10-minute mile, you are burning 10 times as many calories as sitting still.  Our bodies will tend to gain weight and lose lean muscle mass as we age unless we participate in exercise.  The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of 30 minutes per day 5 days per week of moderate exercise (3-6 METs) just to maintain current lean muscle mass.

Exercise improves heart health in many ways

•Strengthens the heart muscle

•Decreases resting pulse rate

•Decreases resting blood pressure

•Decreases weight

•Lowers blood sugar

•Improves blood vessel circulation

Get your METs for a happy heart!

Dr. Bren Boston is a Medical Doctor at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine. You can schedule an appointment with her by calling 310-451-8880 or emailing us at info@akashacenter.com

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