March 19, 2019

We’ve heard it time and time again  – exercise is good for you. Regular exercise can help us reduce stress, lose weight, and live longer, healthier lives. Exercise is also key to better heart health. According to a John Hopkins expert, in many cases, physical activity can be as beneficial to your heart as medication. This fact alone can be a powerful motivator to start adding more exercise to your daily life.  

Alex Sheets, Exercise Specialist at Bethany Village

We recently spoke with Alex Sheets, Exercise Specialist at Bethany Village, about the importance of exercise for people of all ages. Alex is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer who is passionate about helping Bethany Village residents improve their wellness and quality of life through exercise. This week, Alex discusses the impact of exercise on heart health and provides helpful tips for beginners starting a fitness routine.

How does exercise help your heart?

Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your heart health. Aerobic exercise – which is any activity that gets your heart rate elevated for an extended period of time – is beneficial because it trains your heart muscles to pump a bit stronger. We also recommend strength training exercises. Not only does strength training improve muscle strength and endurance, but it also has a positive impact on improving one’s heart and lung function. It also improves metabolism and reduces risk factors for coronary diseases. Some emerging research suggests that strength training can benefit the heart even more than aerobic activity. We want people to incorporate both aerobic exercise and strength training into their exercise routine.

Can people still exercise safely after a heart event, such as a heart attack?

Yes, it’s recommended that people who have suffered a heart attack receive rehabilitation and physical therapy. As they recover, it’s important for them to keep up with aerobic activity to keep their heart healthy and strong and prevent the risk of additional heart problems. If you’ve experienced a heart event, your doctor will let you know when it’s the right time to begin exercising again.

At Bethany Village, our exercise specialists can work one-on-one with residents who are recovering from a heart attack or heart surgery. We focus on helping them gradually ease back into exercise using the treadmills or recumbent stepper machines. Over time, we progress them into resistance training as well. The key is to start slowly and help them build up their activity level safely.

How often should older adults be exercising per week?

The basic guidelines have always been that healthy adults should get about 30 minutes of exercise a day. We recommend incorporating 20 to 30 minutes of strength training two to three times a week, in addition to aerobic activity.

What are some tips for people just getting into fitness? What kinds of exercises are best for beginners?

Joining a group fitness class is a great way to get into exercise. You can learn the proper movements from an instructor, and enjoy the social aspect of exercising with others. At Bethany Village, we offer a variety of group exercise programs for residents. We do a class called PACE or “People with Arthritis Can Exercise.” It’s a gentle movement class that helps people maintain mobility and strength. We also have a class called Everyday Strength, where we use resistance bands to do strength training. Another class we offer is called Circuit of Life, which is a high-intensity interval class. It incorporates strength training and cardiovascular training in shorter, 30-minute sessions. Walking is another good activity because it’s low-impact and you can do it almost anywhere. We encourage our residents to walk as much as they can.

Final thoughts:

Regular exercise is among the best ways to protect your heart health and promote healthy aging. Staying physically active is not only good for your heart, but it can also help you remain mobile and independent for longer. It’s never too late to reap the benefits of regular physical activity, even if you’re new to exercise. Joining a group fitness class that includes both aerobic activity and strength training is a great place to start. Learn more about the Bethany Village Fitness Center and the exercise classes we offer.

Always consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise.

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