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Exercising for a healthy heart

Exercising for a healthy heart

If you exercise regularly, you may lower your risk of a heart attack and stroke. If you're middle-aged or older and haven't been exercising regularly or have a chronic health problem, work with your doctor to develop an exercise program. To condition your heart safely:

  Start at a comfortable level of exertion

Try walking five to 10 minutes over a short distance indoors. Increase five minutes a session, as tolerated.

  Schedule regular exercise

Aim for 30 to 60 minutes a day of low- to moderate-intensity physical activity.

  Include variety

Combine three types of exercise - stretching (flexibility), endurance (aerobic) and strengthening (weight training) - and three levels of intensity - warm-up, workout level and cool-down - in each exercise session.

  Cross-train to reduce your risk of injury

Alternate among exercises that emphasize different parts of the body, such as swimming, bicycling and walking.

  Don't overdo it

Start slowly and build up gradually, allowing time between sessions for your body to rest and recover. And forget the saying "No pain, no gain." A little muscle soreness when you do something new isn't unusual, but soreness doesn't equal pain.

If it hurts, stop doing it.

  Increase your physical activity

Even routine activities such as gardening, climbing stairs or washing floors can burn calories and help improve your health, although not at the same level as a structured exercise program. Just keep moving: Walk or bike to the store instead of driving, park farther away at the shopping mall, take the stairs instead of an elevator.

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