Some people want six-pack abs. Some want firmer glutes. And still others want toned biceps. If you want to be healthy, though, the muscle you should care about exercising the most is your heart, says Anne Arundel Medical Center cardiac rehab nurse Shannon Adkins.
She offers six tips to get started:
- Make it a habit. For optimal heart health, Shannon recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, five to seven days a week.
- Know your target heart rate. For the general public, the American Heart Association recommends exercising with a target heart rate between 50 percent and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. (Your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age.) If you’ve had a heart event, like a heart attack or heart failure, your target heart rate is tailored based on your medical evaluation and medical history.
- Talk it out. You should always be able to talk while you’re exercising. If you can breathe but not speak, you’re pushing a little too hard.
- Ease into/out of exercise. Devote five minutes to a warm-up before you exercise and five minutes to a cool-down after. Gradually transition into and out of intense exercise to improve blood flow to your muscles and reduce stress on your heart.
- Do what you love. Whatever your target heart rate is, you can reach it by walking, running, swimming, biking, hiking, skiing and even dancing. “Do whatever you enjoy doing, as long as it gets your heart rate in that target range,” Shannon says.
- Listen to your body. “Consult your doctor before you start exercising, and stop if you feel like something’s wrong,” Shannon says. “Always listen to your body.”