How many hours a day do you spend sitting? You sit at work… while you’re on the computer… while watching your favorite show… when you’re driving to the store… when you’re in church.
The list goes on and on.
Have you considered how much damage all that sitting could be doing to your heart? It can lead to a stiffening of the muscle in your heart’s left ventricle, the chamber that pumps oxygen-rich blood back out to the rest of your body.
When that muscle stiffens, you end up with high blood pressure and your heart chamber isn’t able to fill as well with blood or pump as efficiently, which puts a strain on the vital organ. And in its most severe form, this can even cause the blood to back up into your lungs which can lead to heart failure.
Thankfully there’s an exact prescription to prevent the damage caused to your heart by inactivity as you age: exercise.
Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center wanted to know if exercise can restore the heart’s elasticity in previously sedentary individuals — especially if begun in late middle age.
Previous studies had already shown substantial improvements in cardiac function in young individuals after a year of training, but surprisingly little change if the training was started after age 65.
For the study, the scientists divided participants into two groups — one that went through two years of supervised exercise training and one that participated in yoga and balance training.
At the end of the two-year study, those who had exercised showed an 18 percent improvement in their maximum oxygen intake during exercise and a more than 25 percent improvement in compliance, or elasticity, of the left ventricular muscle of the heart.
The difference was so dramatic that they compared the change in the heart to a stretchy new rubber band versus one that has gotten stiff sitting in a drawer — and even called the exercise regimen used by the participants a “prescription for life.”
So what is this amazing prescription for life that was used by the study participants to improve the elasticity of their heart muscle?
At its most basic, it’s an exercise program of four to five days per week (the research showed that two to three days was just not enough).
Here’s how it broke down:
• One weekly session of a high-intensity 30-minute workout, like aerobic interval sessions (This is where your heart rate tops 95 percent of its peak rate for 4 minutes, with 3 minutes of recovery, repeated four times). Each interval session should be followed by a recovery session performed at low intensity.
• One weekly session of an hour at moderate intensity, such as tennis, walking, biking or aerobic dance.
• One or two sessions of 30 minutes at moderate intensity.
• One or two weekly strength-training sessions using weights or exercise machines.
Other ways to optimize your heart health include:
• Eat nuts — Instead of reaching for a bag of chips or a cookie for a snack, grab a handful of heart-healthy nuts instead.
• Drop the weight — Losing the spare tire around your middle can help decrease the strain on your heart.
• Support your heart — Give your heart the nutrients it needs to function optimally. Take CoQ10 to provide energy for your heart cells, vitamin K2 to boost artery-beneficial HDL and lower total cholesterol and nitric oxide to relax your arteries and normalize your blood pressure. A supplement I like that offers all three is Peak Cardio Platinum.