Are you waiting for the perfect time to start exercising? In just 30 to 40 minutes a day, you actually can gain time - a lifetime.
I work with many women who finally are making time for themselves after they have had a cardiac event.
Even so, many have trouble staying with their rehabilitation program. There are grandkids to pick up from school, husbands who need assistance and many other family, work and volunteer commitments.
It's easy to cut ourselves out of the equation, but there are many reasons why you shouldn't.
Your heart is a muscle, just like the ones in your arms and legs. The more you use it, the stronger and more efficient it becomes. As you exercise, your blood vigorously will pump through your arteries, helping to keep them clean.
Regular cardiovascular exercise, the kind that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe heavily, helps improve your quality of life while reducing many of your risks for heart disease. It can:
Lower blood pressure
Reduce blood sugar levels
Help with weight control
Making a daily commitment to yourself also can help you to manage stress, sleep better and prevent depression. Exercise, combined with a healthy diet can lead to even greater rewards.
Consult with your physician before starting an exercise program. When you begin any activity, do it slowly to avoid injury and don't get discouraged. I have patients who only could exercise for five minutes at a time. After three months, they were exercising for a full 45 minutes.
Be thoughtful about your choice of exercise. Non-weight bearing exercise, such as swimming or water aerobics, are less stressful to your joints. Doing a variety of activities keeps things interesting and involves different muscle groups.
Drink plenty of water before, during and after your activity. Hydration impacts your heart rate and blood pressure. Too little water can lead to muscle cramps. If you're staying on land, make sure you have proper shoes and are dressed for the weather and your activity.
Hitting the mark
Begin your exercise session by stretching and a doing short warm-up. The goal is to raise your heart rate during exercise to 60 to 85 percent of your age-predicted maximum heart rate. This is found by subtracting your age from 220. Check your actual rate by counting your pulse, during or after your workout, for 10 seconds and multiplying by six.
Because some medications affect your heart rate and interfere with this type of reading, we use the RPE scale (rate perceived exertion) to measure the intensity of exercise. Using a scale where zero is the exertion of sitting in a chair and 10 is the feeling you have after a very difficult task, aim for a three or a four (moderate to somewhat heavy).
Consider your breathing and tiredness in your arms and legs when evaluating. While exercising, you should be able to carry on a conversation; if you can't, you are working too hard.
If you have young children or grandchildren, make them part of the activity. Hula hoop, jump rope and dance with them. If your days are packed, consider breaking your workout into 10 minute blocks; the rewards are the same. Home exercise videos can provide a convenient workout or alternative for rainy days.
Whatever you do, make it fun. Ask a friend to walk or enjoy a class with you - it's a great way to stay motivated and satisfy your craving for social time, too.
To learn more about the benefits of exercise in fighting heart disease, attend the Susquehanna Health Spirit of Women Day of Dance event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 28 in the Susquehanna Tower. For more information and to register, visit www.susquehannawomen.org or call 1-888-720-8461.
Kelley is an exercise specialist with Susquehanna Health Cardiac Rehabilitation.