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To Your Health - Exercises for a Healthy Heart

February 12, 2020
Get Moving for a Healthy Heart

One of the most powerful tools for preventing heart disease is exercise – and you don’t need to run a marathon or do CrossFit to get the benefits. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days and two days a week of strength training can make a big difference to your heart health. Christina Perry, DPT, OMPT, physical therapist at the Greater Baltimore Center for Rehabilitation Medicine at GBMC talked about how physical therapy can help you get active and healthy.

“Even if you’re not an exerciser, a physical therapist can help you build a plan to gradually become more active,” Ms. Perry explained. “First, we assess where you are in terms of your physical abilities and fitness. Then we set a goal and help you slowly progress towards achieving that goal and increasing your cardiovascular fitness. Any level of exercise is beneficial.”

She noted that for everyone, the first step before starting to exercise or ramping up your fitness routine is to be cleared by your primary care physician. If you’ve had a heart attack or have serious cardiovascular disease, you should consult your cardiologist before beginning to exercise.

“The American Heart Association recommends that we get 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise a week,” Ms. Perry added. “That might sound like a lot, but you can break it into smaller portions and still reap the benefits. Instead of 30 minutes five days a week you can exercise for two 15-minute intervals a day or do shorter workouts seven days a week. And it doesn’t have to be only the types of activities you usually associate with exercise like walking, jogging, tennis, biking, or swimming. Vacuuming and raking leaves are also forms of aerobic exercise.”

She emphasized the importance of warming up and cooling down as part of your exercise routine, the warning signs you should know that mean you’re ramping up your exercise too quickly or too vigorously, and the benefits of working with a physical therapist who can help you develop an exercise program you can do at home.

“Only 22% of adults in the U.S. get the recommended amount of exercise,” said Ms. Perry. “The key to getting and staying active is to start where you’re able to and build on that over time. Exercise can reduce your risk of a heart attack by 40%, so it’s an important investment of your time.”
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