What does Exercise Mean For Your Heart?
Exercise isn't just about what you see in the mirror, but perhaps more importantly, it's about how you feel. Your cardiovascular system plays a vital role in supplying blood, nutrients, and oxygen to your tissues, cells, and organs. Of course, you've heard it before as most health care professionals recommend eating a balanced diet and regular exercise to maintain optimal cardiovascular function. That regular physical activity can decrease the risk of stroke, obesity, diabetes, certain cancers, as well as peripheral vascular disease and has been found to aid in prevention and treatment of heart disease and various other conditions. Though regular exercise is not said to be able to prevent genetic influence related to your heart health, it has been noted to reduce the severity of heart disease by decreasing high blood pressure, plaque buildup in the arteries, high blood sugar, stress, weight loss, etc. Certain medications may be used in treatment of contributing factors of heart disease, but exercise has the ability to address most factors of various heart conditions. In all its glory, exercise may just be the answer to a healthy heart!
STEP ONE - CHECK YOUR RESTING HEART RATE
Most of us are familiar with the basic tests done to check heart health during our annual check-up. Your doctor or nurse runs the stethoscope over your chest to check for regular or irregular heartbeat patterns and uses the blood pressure cuff on your arm to read your heart rate as well as your diastolic and systolic blood pressure results. This is among the simplest ways health care professionals can check our heart health. However, it is critical to know that everyone's heart health is different, and understanding where your heart rate is normally can be of great help. Your resting heart rate (RHR) or baseline, is the number of times your heart beats per minute. For the most accurate results, you want to check your RHR as soon as you wake up. The best way to do this is a simple two finger manual count test:
- use your alarm clock as your one minute timer
- lie still and breathe normally
- holding your right hand's index and middle fingers together, press the tips of the fingers lightly on a pulse point either on the wrist, bend of the elbow, neck, or lower jaw bone
- count each heart beat within the allotted 60 second time-frame
The National Institute of Health notes that the average RHR for children 10 years and older, as well as adults (including seniors) is 60 - 100 beats per minute. For those who classify as well-trained athletes, the average RHR is 40 - 60 beats per minute. Each individual's RHR can also vary dependent on overall health, medication, age, and heart related conditions. It is recommended that you check your RHR after a good night's sleep and as frequent as desired to keep an accurate measure of what is normal for you.
STEP TWO - KNOW WHERE YOUR HEART IS
This isn't a science test, you don't have to understand where your heart is physically in your body, but you most certainly need to know what activity goals you have set your heart on. This could be that you wish to lose 10lbs as your doctor recommended or it could be that you have been training for a marathon, and you want your heart recovery period to improve. Regardless of your goal, heart health is a vitally important consideration.
STEP THREE - KNOW WAYS TO MEASURE YOUR HEART
There are many ways to check your heart rate. The most basic is a simple two finger manual count test as described above. To shorten the test time, you can count your heart beats for 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to get an approximate read of how many times your heart beats in 60 seconds. For Example: Josh holds his two fingers on his jaw bone pulse point counting his heart beats for 10 seconds. He counts 16 beats in the 10 second time frame. Josh's math is simple: 16X6 = 96 heart beats in 60 seconds.An easier way (who likes to do math??) for you to check your heart rate during activity is by using a heart rate monitor. There are many different variations of heart rate monitors available to the public. Some of the most trending and easy to use devices are those that come in the form of a wrist watch. These watches measure your heart beats per minute consistently when told to do so. Manufacturers like Fitbit, Polar, and Garmin make devices like this which can be purchased online or in most sports stores. Some wrist heart rate monitors even come with a chest strap (which just feels cool to wear). This allows for a slightly more accurate reading during exercise and may be preferred for more vigorous activity.