April is Move More Month, according to the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, and OSF HealthCare wants you to celebrate by getting up and exercising.
This month of activity is not about driving up gym memberships, though. It’s about heart health and heart disease prevention.
“Coupled with a healthy diet, exercise is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle,” said Sarah Maurer, APRN, of OSF HealthCare Cardiovascular Institute in Bloomington, Illinois. “Evidence shows there’s a direct correlation between heart health and exercise.”
Coronary heart disease results when plaque, caused by cholesterol, builds up in the arteries and allows less blood and oxygen to get to the heart. This can lead to a heart attack or heart failure.
However, exercise helps reduce cholesterol, can improve blood pressure and helps manage stress levels, all of which decrease the risk of heart disease, Maurer said. Engaging in moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise for three or four 40-minute sessions every week can lead to a decrease in your heart disease risk of 14 to 20 percent, she said.
Get started, get moving, get healthy
“It can be difficult and overwhelming when you’re not used to exercising and you don’t know how to start,” Maurer said. “That’s why I recommend easing into an exercise regimen and figuring out what works best for you as you progress. You want to incorporate exercise into your sustainable lifestyle, so rather than making a big change overnight, make a series of small changes over time that lead to a healthier lifestyle.”
Experts recommend 150 minutes of exercise per week, but Maurer suggests starting with one session of 40 minutes per week and working up to more until it becomes a consistent part of your life.
It can be as simple as a walk. Find an activity you enjoy, because it will be part of your lifestyle.
Maybe find something you can do with a friend to build in accountability and combine exercise time with your socializing time.
How do you define moderate exercise? Maurer said it should be difficult to hold a conversation, but still possible to do so. If you feel dizziness, chest pain or shortness of breath you definitely want to back off the intensity.
You need to gauge what fitness level you are at, and take into consideration any physical limitations you have. Do not be tempted to push too hard because you see other people exercising at a higher level than you.
Get into a routine
If you have any questions or concerns, Maurer said you should speak with your primary care provider. They can help you figure out a healthy regimen that meets your unique needs and can provide tips on exercises that might be best for you.
“Write down any questions you have before the appointment so you can get them answered and get care that’s individualized to your health,” Maurer said. “Never be afraid to ask questions. The key to health is understanding and applying that knowledge to your life.”
OSF HealthCare Cardiovascular Institute offers a wide range of heart and vascular services from an experienced team of experts. Visit osfhealthcare.org/heart to learn more and find a location near you.
Last Updated: November 27, 2020