Valentine’s Day was last week, but no, this post is not about love, heart break, or emotions. February is American Heart Month so let’s talk cardiac muscle and leave the lovey dovey stuff for another time!
The hardest working muscle in the body is said to be the heart. Heart rate is the speed at which your heart is working or pumping oxygen and blood throughout your body. I’m sure that all of you have experienced the increased pumping in your chest when you are doing a strenuous activity like running or lifting a heavy item, and some of you gauge how intense your workouts are by how fast your heart is beating. Have you, however, put any thought into how fast your heart beats when you are not exercising?
Resting Heart Rate
I use a Fitbit to track my heart rate, (among its other excellent features such as daily calories burned, sleeping patterns, etc.) during both exercise and at rest. According to my Fitbit readings over the past year, my average resting heart rate were the highest during the months of October and December. Those were the months where my cardiovascular activity declined several hours per week. I dealt with a drastic change at my job in October which disrupted my routine, then I dealt with some more setbacks in December.
When I decreased the amount of cardio in October and December, my average resting heart rate increased; when I increased the amount of cardio in November, my average resting heart rate lowered. The readings demonstrate an inverse relationship between cardiovascular activity and resting heart rate. In other words, the more cardio I do, the lower my resting heart rate is, and the less cardio I do, the higher my resting heart rate is.
There is such a thing as a heart rate that is too low, bradycardia, so I won’t disclose my numbers to avoid any comparisons. Please check with your doctor if you are not sure if your resting heart rate is normal.
Cardiovascular activity, or cardio (derived from kardia, the greek word for heart), helps blood and oxygen pump more efficiently, not only during the time of exercise, but as you rest! When blood and oxygen pump more efficiently, fewer pumps are needed. Hence, a healthier heart can pump the same amount of blood and oxygen with a lower heart rate.
In addition to improving circulation, cardio can lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and what many get caught up in, body weight. Improving all of these can help lower the risk of heart disease, which is why it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle by incorporating cardio within your routine.
Sometimes setbacks occur, but instead of thinking about exercise as a tool to help you achieve a short-term goal like fitting into a hot outfit for an upcoming event, think of it as a daily habit to sustain good health. If you can maintain your healthy habits, you may never need to lose weight to fit into any outfit again because you’ll stay the same (healthy) size year-round. It’s a win-win!
Can you think of some other ways to protect your heart? Please share your comment below!