April is typically a month of new beginnings. It’s a time we can get outdoors to enjoy the warmer weather and be more active. Consider it a time to begin your journey into better health. Heart and Stroke suggests that “for those looking for the fountain of youth, exercise is the next best thing”. Katherine Chisholm, Registered Kinesiologist, Thunder Bay Regional Health Science Centre Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Program, recommends that exercise offers many advantages; “Imagine being able to tap into our very own internal pharmacies from within our bodies, with little-to-no out of pocket costs, minimal-to-no negative side effects and potentially unlimited benefits.”
Adding some additional activity to your daily schedule can go a long way towards improvements in your overall health, regardless of your age. A sedentary lifestyle or inactivity has been identified by Heart and Stroke as a specific risk factor associated with heart disease.
The heart pumps blood throughout your body carrying vital oxygen and nutrients to every cell. Activity that raises your heart rate or strengthens the heart’s muscle will allow it to increase the blood flow. ParticipACTION, a national non-profit organization that inspires and supports Canadians to make physical activity a vital part of their everyday life, suggests that physical activity enhances the cardiorespiratory system, raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol, improves blood sugar control, and lowers blood pressure.
Any amount of physical activity is better than none but the more active you are, the greater the health benefits. Heart and Stroke recommends adults should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week. Dr. C. Lai, cardiologist with Curans Heart Centre in Thunder Bay, suggests “If you are physically active for 15minutes a day, 3 times a week, it will make you live longer and better”.
Heart and Stroke recommend that you should choose activities that include endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance. They suggest that endurance activities could include walking, cycling or tennis, while strength activities like carrying groceries (or toddlers), heavy yard work, or weight training can strengthen muscles. They also suggest you can build flexibility through stretches, yoga, housework, or golfing while Yoga and Tai Chi can help build your balance along with any exercises that strengthen your lower body.
You don’t need to design a physical fitness regime; you just need to get started by being more active. If you are just getting started, go slow and gradually. Find ways to increase your daily activity around the house or get outside for a neighbourhood walk. If possible, consider taking stairs instead of elevators and park your vehicle further away in a parking lot to increase your walking time.
If you wish to track the increase in your activity there are many products available. Most cell phones have health monitoring apps that track your activity. ParticipACTION offers a free health and fitness app for your phone that not only tracks your activity but offers you incentives and messages to keep you motivated. www.participaction.com/app/.
Before starting a physical activity program, speak to your healthcare provider first to discuss what is right for you. Let April, and the hope of new beginnings, provide you with the incentive to begin your journey into better heart health.
Heart and Stroke: www.heartandstroke.ca/healthy-living/stay-active
For all questions related to heart health, please visit our website (northernhearts.org) or follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@NorthernHeartsThunderBay), where a new posting occurs every Wednesday on all things heart health.