Exercise and your heart go hand-in-hand. Cardiovascular fitness is the term that professionals use, and that speaks to the relationship between the heart and the blood vessels.
The heart is a pump with two sides. The right side receives blood from the body and sends it to the lungs for oxygen, while the left side receives that oxygenated blood from the lungs and pumps it to the body. Like any pump, you want it to be able to meet the demands of the system when called upon. Most pumps shut off when they are not pumping. However, your heart is always at work, even when you are resting.
At rest, you want your heart to deliver that oxygen with as little effort as possible. Many things impact the resting heart rate that are not good for the system, but exercise can be a very easy and affordable way to have a healthy heart with a low resting heart rate.
Long, slow walks lasting 50 minutes or more cause your heart to beat steadily. This makes for a more efficient pump. Your blood vessels respond and make for easier blood flow. The tissues of your muscles, bones, and organs adapt and take in the oxygen while handing off the carbon dioxide with greater ease.
These longer, less stressful exercise routines make your heart more efficient, can help lower cholesterol, limit the impact of diabetes, burn more fat, and create a vascular system with less pressure: low blood pressure.
The vascular system needs to work with a normal amount of pressure; 120/80 is a common number that is referred to as normal. The top number represents the pressure in your arteries when the heart pumps. The bottom number represents the pressure in your arteries in between heart beats. Blood pressure at rest of 140/90 is considered too high, and a check -up with your doctor is advised. When your pressure is too low, lightheadedness is common and should be addressed with your doctor as well. Different types of exercise have temporary effects on the pressure, but the goal is to get to that normal number.
What to do
Tomorrow morning, before you get out of bed, take your resting heart rate. Measure just below your wrist on the side of the thumb or on your neck just off the throat and next to the muscle next to it. Count the number of beats over a 15-second period, multiply by four, and you have your beats per minute.
Begin or continue your sustained exercise program and measure every morning. Nothing will make you happier than to see those numbers come down. Treat that heart to a little exercise and you will be well rewarded.
E-mail me with your questions or thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Dee, P.T. is one of the owners of DEEPT located in South Burlington, Shelburne and Hinesburg (Deept.com). Mike has been practicing physical therapy for 30 years and has held certifications by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a: Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).