Freeman Medical Musings Blog


Exercise for a Healthy Heart

Posted by Dr. Robert Stauffer, on February 19, 2015

I believe the most under-prescribed thing in medicine is exercise. I suspect the reason is because it is not something simple to do – it is not a prescription that can be written, nor is it a pill that can be taken. Exercise involves dedication, hard work and prioritization in your life schedule to make sure you have time to do it.

Exercise has clearly been found to prolong people's lives and to combat disease when disease arises. People who exercise live at a different level as they age into their 40s, 50s and 60s than those who do not. Multiple studies have shown that exercise, even to a moderate degree, combats heart disease and cancer, and prevents diabetes and obesity. Additionally, it has a significant effect on people’s cognitive function and overall well-being as they age.

So the questions are, “How much should I exercise?” “How should I exercise?” and “When should I exercise?” First of all, you must make exercise a priority. It must be as important as everything else in your life and a schedule must be set up that you are going to stick to on a regular basis so that excuses are not made. Otherwise, days and weeks can go by without exercising.

It’s important to try to exercise at least four days a week, 30-40 minutes at a time. If you want to get into really good shape, then my recommendation is for six days a week. The exercise should be a mix of both aerobic exercise, such as treadmill, bike, or walking, and some strength training, which is not quite as important, but is important for overall core strength and muscle development.

The intensity of the workout is also important. If you go to work out and only get your heart rate up to 40-50% of what it should be, you are not going to get the benefit that you will get at 85% of maximum predicted heart rate. A heart rate monitor and careful guidance from your physician is critical to make sure that you push your workout, particularly the aerobic side, to the point where you are going to get benefit and you are not just wasting your time. Therefore, I would recommend four to five days a week, 30-40 minutes of aerobic workout, with a heart rate at 85% of maximum predicted heart rate. Also include one to two days a week of muscle-training for overall strength and core strength.

If you can dedicate yourself to this type of workout, the benefits from a health standpoint and a heart standpoint are huge. It takes discipline and time, and the value is far worth what you put into it!