The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that we get 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity every week. Sounds simple doesn’t it. But here are the questions I am asked about this recommendation.
What is considered moderate? According to the AHA moderate activity means that your heart is beating faster, but you can still carry on a conversation. In warmer weather or if you are moving indoors you may notice that you are starting to sweat a little bit.
What’s the best way to break down that time? The AHA recommends that you break it down into 30 minutes sessions. That would mean moving 5 days a week. But wait a minute, what is I don’t have 30 minutes some days. Well you can do less time but you will have to increase your intensity to vigorous.
Vigorous exercise is at a higher intensity and it feels more taxing. You should still be able to have a conversation, but your heart will be beating faster and you may find that you will have to pause to catch your breath during conversation. At this vigorous pace you can decrease your time to 75 min a week. That works out to 15 min 5 days a week.
When is the best time to exercise? Like a lot of questions I am asked, it depends. It depends on when is the best time for you because you need to be consistent to reap the benefits of exercise. There is some research that supports working out early in the morning, especially on an empty stomach, is the best way to burn stored fat, potentially increasing your ability to lose weight. There is other research that says working out in the morning decreases the chances of you missing a workout due to something else (a good excuse) getting in the way of the workout.
But if you’re not a morning person, it may not work for you to try to get up at dawn to work out. The key is to do what’s most likely to work for you consistently.
If your schedule isn’t predictable, you may need to be flexible and have a plan for various times of day.
If you find that working out too late in the evening keeps you from falling asleep easily, shift your exercise session earlier in the day if you are doing a more vigorous activity.
What is the best exercise to do? Again, it depends. To stay motivated, choose activities you enjoy. If you’re a social person, do something that engages you socially. Take a group exercise class, join a recreational team or walk with a group of friends. If you prefer having time alone, walking, swimming or biking solo might be a better fit for you. If you’d like to spend more time with your family, find an activity you can all do together, like an after-dinner walk or game of soccer.
There are so many choices; don’t limit yourself to just one. Having a variety of fitness activities to choose from may keep you from getting bored or burned out.
Here are some activities you can do any time of day:
- Walking, running and jogging
- Dancing and aerobics
- Climbing stairs
- Playing sports
- Strength training and weights
- Yoga and Pilates
- Boxing and kickboxing
So here are the guidelines to improve your heart health. Stay tuned for information on exercise for other specific conditions.
Next week, I be talking about Improving Your Diet for Heart Health.