Heart Health and Exercise

Today is National Walk Your Dog Day. We don’t have a dog for a multitude of reasons. When one of my daughter’s asks for a dog, I tell her she got a baby brother. So today, I walked said baby brother. We both enjoyed the fresh air.

Walking my "dog"

With it being American Heart Month, does walking the dog (our your kid or yourself) benefit your heart? Short answer: yes. Longer answer: yes and no.

We all know that exercise and nutrition go together. Only doing one will not get you the best results. However, how much and what kind of exercise do we need to do? Is all exercise created equal?

One way of looking at it is that any movement is better than no movement. Going for a stroll around the block is better for your heart than watching TV for the same amount of time. However, the catch is increasing the intensity of the exercise. More intense physical activity, such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, jumping jacks, lifting weights, etc, is more beneficial. And intensity level may depend on your fitness level at the time. If you haven’t been exercising at all, walking briskly for a mile or two may really get your heart pumping and get you out of breath. As you continue to exercise though, you will likely need to up the intensity (in our walking example, speed) to get the same physical response.

How much exercise do we need? The American Heart Association recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week, which means at least 30 minutes a day 5 days a week, preferably spread out over the week. Doing 150 minutes of exercise one day a week and then no exercise the other days is less beneficial than a consistent 30 minutes a day. They also encourage you to include strength and resistance training. I can personally attest to the cardio-intense nature of weight lifting. I recently added more strength training to my workouts. I still get quite winded and feel my heart rate increase even without jumping around.

So go walk your dog, briskly today and make your best friend and your heart happy!

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