By Lisa Lin, BA, RMT

Part of celebrating and promoting education about heart health is founded in physical exercise. The focus of this article is cardiovascular fitness. A balanced fitness program will have 3 main components: cardiovascular exercise, strength or resistance exercise and stretching. Cardiovascular fitness is a good place to start in a fitness program as you work your muscles, can easily pace yourself and build your endurance.

In my massage practice, I find I am often providing fitness suggestions and guidelines in pain management for people wanting to become healthier. Years ago after studying recreation and fitness in university I worked as a personal trainer introducing people to exercise and learned a lot about what challenges people encounter when wanting to start and maintain an exercise program. Knowledge is power folks, so read on for some education and tips on getting going in fitness. Your hearts will thank-you!

What is Cardiovascular Exercise?

It is any activity that increases the heart rate and increases oxygen consumption for an extended period of time. What it is doing is making your heart work more, and increases your oxygen intake through your lungs (when you breathe harder during exercise) which then supplies oxygen to your blood, which then flows through the vessels of your body supplying oxygen rich blood to all your tissues. We need oxygen to survive. Our bodies are a miraculous system that converts the oxygen in the air we breathe into energy for the cells that make up the tissues of our bodies.The heart and lungs are primarily responsible for this job. The more regularly you exercise, training endurance in your cardiovascular and respiratory systems your entire body becomes more efficient and healthier. Oxygen in the body and brain translates into improved sleep, memory, mental clarity, more energy for day to day tasks, healing and detoxification of metabolic processes.

Just like massage stimulates blood flow through the tissues and circulation for healthy detoxification and for delivery of nutrients to the cells, so too does cardiovascular exercise.

How Do I Start Exercising for Heart Health?

1. Check with your doctor to get clearance for an exercise program if you have a diagnosed health condition, have pain, or have not exercised in a long time.

2. You can start simply by walking (mall walking, outside, running tracks or treadmills at fitness facilities).

3. Try out different activities for variety and to see what you like. Some examples are: swimming, aquafit, walking, running, biking, dancing, skipping, rowing, rollerblading, crosscountry skiing, snowshoeing, aerobics classes and Zumba.

4. Participate with a family member or friend if you aren’t feeling very motivated, are bored or feeling a bit unsure.

5. Do the talk test: during exercise can you still talk or are you huffing and puffing so hard you can’t talk and can’t catch your breath? You want to break a sweat AND be able to talk (general guideline for not overdoing it). If you last 5 minutes or 50 minutes you are doing great – listen to your body and don’t overdo it. You will get to know your body overtime and will know when you can safely push it. Slow and steady wins the race.

6. How often? Government of Canada’s physical exercise guidelines recommend 2.5 hours per week. For example this could look like 30 min-5 days a week, or even 2-15min brisk walks 5 days a week. (Ref. Government of Canada website search: “physical activity”). Consistent, regular activity is what creates mental and physical health.

Have fun and happy trails!