Exercise Tips for a Healthy Heart

12 July 2019

Dr Kim Tan, Consultant Cardiologist

We want a long, prosperous and healthy life. Unfortunately, due to the toll of extended working hours, and hardly any time left for ourselves, let alone to exercise, some may develop diseases. Musculoskeletal pain, heart disease and diabetes have all become a common friend in the time that we are now living in.

To make exercise simpler, here are some tips of the kind of exercise that can be included in your workout routine in order to achieve and maintain optimal health. Ideally, all four types of exercise, endurance, strength, balance and flexibility should be included in a healthy workout routine.

Some benefits of exercise are:

  • Lowers the blood sugar level
  • Improves insulin sensitivity
  • Reduces body fat
  • Build and tone the body muscles
  • Lower risk for heart disease
  • Improves circulation
  • Preserve bone mass
  • Reduces stress and enhances quality of life

1. ENDURANCE

  • walking briskly;
  • biking;
  • running/jogging;
  • swimming;
  • dancing;
  • climbing stairs at work;
  • playing sports such as tennis, basketball, soccer or racquetball.

2. STRENGTH

Simple, weight-bearing exercises that use free weights, machines or your body’s own resistance are the focus. You can do these workouts separate from your cardio activity or add resistance on to an existing workout. Choose the time and type of activity that works for you.

A well-rounded strength-training program provides the following benefits: a) increased strength of bones, muscles and connective tissues (tendons and ligaments); b) lower risk of injury; c) increased muscle mass, which makes it easier for your body to burn calories and thus maintain a healthy weight & d) better quality of life.

You may wish to consult with a certified fitness professional to learn safe techniques before beginning a strength-training programme. One set of eight to 12 repetitions, working the muscles to the point of fatigue, is usually sufficient for each muscle group.

Aim to exercise each muscle group at least two times per week, with a minimum of two days of rest between workouts.

 

3. BALANCE

Having good balance is important for many activities we do every day, such as walking and going up and down the stairs and it also can help prevent falls, a common problem in older adults and stroke patients. They can also benefit those who are obese since weight is not always carried or distributed evenly throughout the body. A loss of balance can occur when standing or moving suddenly.


HOW MUCH DO I NEED?

Balance exercises can be done every day or as many days as you like and as often as you like. Preferably, older adults at risk of falls should do balance training 3 or more days a week. Try these balance exercises:

  • see how long you can stand on one foot, or try holding for 10 seconds on each side
  • walk heel to toe for 20 steps. Steady yourself with a wall if you need a little extra support
  • walk normally in as straight a line as you can or in tandem walking
  • yoga and Tai Chi do not require expensive classes or equipment. Find an instructional book, DVD or website to get started at home.

4. FLEXIBILITY

Flexibility exercises stretch your muscles and can help your body stay flexible. These exercises may not improve your endurance or strength, but being flexible gives you more freedom of movement for other exercise as well as for your everyday activities. It may also help you avoid discomfort when confined in a space for a long period of time (like a long meeting or a plane flight).

 

WHEN SHOULD I STRETCH?

The best time to do flexibility exercises is when your muscles are already warm so they can stretch further without tightness or pain. If you’re doing only stretching exercises, warm up with a few minutes of easy walking first to warm up your muscles. If you’re doing endurance or strength exercises, stretch after, not before.

 

HOW MUCH DO I NEED?

It’s good to do each stretching exercise 3 to 5 times during each session. Tips for safe stretching:

  • relax and breathe normally while stretching. Then stretch while breathing slowly out your mouth. Count to 10 slowly or time yourself for 10-30 seconds
  • a stretch should always be smooth and slow, never jerky or bouncy. This can cause muscles to tighten and may result in injuries
  • hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds and repeat each stretch 3-5 times. Remember to breathe normally during each stretch
  • as you become more flexible, try reaching further in each exercise. A mild pulling feeling during a stretch is normal. Sharp or stabbing pain or joint pain means you should stop, you're stretching too far
  • always keep your joints slightly bent, never “locked” in a straight position. This can cause injury.

Source: American Heart Association

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