Meeting Heart Healthy Exercise Goals
We have all heard about exercise recommendations for improving our heart health. But truth be told most of us probably forgot what they were or didn’t fully understand them in the first place. Stay tuned for some creative ideas on how to remember, understand, and meet your heart healthy exercise goals.
What the Heart Experts Say about Exercise
The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week for general health. Those who workout at a more vigorous intensity don’t require as much time and more rigorous standards exist for those trying to lower cholesterol or blood pressure. But generally speaking, this leaves us with two basic questions.
- What is moderate intensity exercise?
- How am I going to fit those 150 minutes in every week?
How to Measure Moderate Intensity
Rather than guess what intensity you are exercising, it’s better to choose a method to help determine this. Two easy methods to use are the Talk Test, and The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale.
The Talk Test is simple to use. It says that if you can talk well enough to say complete sentences but not well enough to sing a song, you’re in the moderate range. If you could sing, you’re letting yourself off too easy. If you can barely get a word out, you’re working too hard. Think of a familiar song and give it a try the next time you work out.
The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale is a bit more technical, but I’m sure you can handle it. It measures the self-perception or viewpoint of the person exercising. The scale used ranges from 6 to 20. Six means no exertion at all, such as sitting on the couch. A score of 20 means maximal exertion, such as what is needed when running away from a hungry bear. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person aiming for moderate intensity exercise should strive for a perceived exertion number of 12-14.
Timing: How to Spread Out Your 150 Minutes
One of the easiest and best ways to remember to do something is to do it every single day. It becomes a habit this way and part of your regular routine. But even the best-laid plans get derailed from time to time. So, I suggest shooting a little high and then even if you have a derailing life event, you’re still meeting the goal.
The average lunch hour is 30 minutes long, and most of us look forward to this break. So imagine your heart looking forward to the same 30 minutes. But instead of getting a break, it gets a chance to get out of its cage, to stretch, to move, to enjoy living. Shoot for 30 minutes of exercise every day, to let your heart move. Then if one of those life events happens and you miss one or two days, you’ve still met the goal. If you get more exercise than the minimum goal – good for you and your heart thanks you!
Creative Ways to Meet the Goals
The World Health Organization offers a few suggestions on what you can do for your 30 minutes of moderate exercise. Most of their ideas include things that would be considered fun, such as walking the dog, dancing, playing games with kids, and hunting. But you can accomplish the same goal with things that need to be done anyway, including housework, carrying objects, and moving things.
I vote for intentionally doing whatever you need or want to do with your 30 minutes. There is nothing like knocking out two things at once, like when you clean while dancing to your favorite tunes. Can you see the mop dancing around the kitchen floor while the Rocky theme song (Gonna Fly Now) is playing in the background? Or how about dusting to Arethra Franklin’s rendition of Respect.
Three Summary Points
- 150 minutes (30 minutes every day)
- Moderate intensity (need to be able to talk or score 12-14)
- Have fun!
American Heart Association (March, 2014). Moderate to Vigorous – What is your level of intensity?
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (June, 2015). Measuring Physical Activity Intensity.
World Health Organization (2016). What is Moderate-intensity and Vigorous-intensity Physical Activity?
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