You can make training enjoyable!
February is the month of love. The shelves at stores begin to glow with red and pink. Everything is heart shaped and romantic (cue the giddy, flirtatious laughter).
It is quite fitting that hearts engulf our lives during this season as February is also Heart Health Month. You might be asking yourself why we have a whole month dedicated to heart health and I am here to tell you that we would benefit from more than just a month of recognition. The CDC reports, “In 2020, 9 of the 10 leading causes of death remained the same as in 2019. The leading cause was heart disease, followed by cancer. I think we all need a minute to let that sink in.
Heart health could help improve the length and quality of life if only people took it seriously. What does that mean for us? A great first step is to meet with your doctor and discuss your risk factors and how to combat them.
There are easy things you can do right now to change your heart health trajectory. Start looking at how you eat and how much you move. I don’t mean how many hours you spend at the gym. You do not need an expensive gym membership to help your heart. It starts with small things like parking farther away from the front of the store or work, walking on your lunch break, dancing in the kitchen while you do dishes, or riding your bike (please wear a helmet; it just makes sense).
There are two forms of exercise that most people think of. The first form is cardiorespiratory fitness or cardio training. The second is muscular strength and muscular endurance resistance training. Both are very important for your overall health. Whether you are skinny as a rail or overweight, cardio and resistance training need to be implemented into your fitness routine. However, this month, I want to focus on cardiorespiratory fitness. ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) states, “Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) may be defined as the ability of the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to the muscles to perform dynamic physical activity. High CRF is associated with increased health benefits.”
By now some of you have allowed your minds to wander to a dark place. You are thinking about running marathons, gasping for air, and vomiting. Don’t do that. This is not a call to do something until you vomit. Cardio can be challenging, but it is necessary. Cardio can be scary, but it can also be really fun if you give it a chance. If you don’t like running, don’t run. No one is asking you to do something you dread. I am, however, asking that you make a conscious effort to improve your life through how you treat your heart.
ACSM breaks cardio into 4 categories. Those are:
Type A: endurance exercises such as walking or water aerobics
Type B: vigorous-intensity endurance exercise, such as running or spinning
Type C: endurance activities, such as cross-country skiing or in-line skating
Type D: recreational sports, such as tennis or basketball.
I think everyone just breathed a sigh of relief. You may have not known that the things you actually enjoy doing count as cardio training. It does not have to be this daunting or mystical event. Cardio training can and should be fun. If it’s not fun, you won’t keep doing it! You can find ways to do cardio solo, with a buddy, or with your entire family. Try adding in a family dance party after dinner or a walk with your significant other. Try that new cycle class at the gym or play some basketball with those guys you always see playing. Give yourself a chance to find joy in improving your heart health.
Your next thought might be how long should a cardio session be. ACSM recommends 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio 5 days a week. Some of your eyes got significantly larger. Deep breath. If 30 minutes seems impossible, start with ten minutes. You could do a ten-minute walk before work, a ten-minute walk during your lunch break, and a ten-minute dance party with the kids before bath time. It can be broken down however your body allows. Make it a goal to build yourself up to a continuous 30 minutes.
Whatever avenue of cardio training you choose, remember, have fun! Discuss your cardio training strategy with your doctor beforehand. Another important step is to write down what you do. That can be quite helpful in seeing progress or seeing where you could incorporate more. If you have any questions or would like more information, visit www.heart.org or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kayla Thompson is a diabetes care coordinator at the HopeHealth Medical Plaza in Florence and is a certified exercise physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. She has a master of science degree in clinical exercise science.