High Cholesterol: Exercise for a Healthy Heart
What Should I Include in My Program?
Every exercise session should include a warm-up, conditioning phase, and cool-down.
- Warm-up. This helps your body adjust slowly from rest to exercise. A warm-up reduces the stress on your heart and muscles, and slowly increases your breathing, heart rate, and body temperature. It also helps improve flexibility and reduce muscle soreness. The best warm-up includes dynamic stretching and the beginning of the activity at a low intensity.
- Conditioning. This follows the warm-up. During the conditioning phase, the benefits of exercise are gained, and calories are burned. Be sure to monitor the intensity of the activity -- check your heart rate. Don't overdo it. Trust your symptoms.
- Cool-down. This is the last phase of your exercise session. It allows your body to recover gradually from the conditioning phase. Your heart rate and blood pressure will return to near resting values. Cool-down does not mean sit down! In fact, do not sit, stand still, or lie down right after exercise. This could cause you to feel dizzy or light-headed or have heart palpitations (fluttering in your chest). The best cool-down is to slowly decrease the intensity of your activity. You may also do some of the same stretching activities you did in the warm-up phase.
How Can I Avoid Overdoing It?
Here are a few guidelines:
- Gradually increase your activity level, especially if you have not been exercising regularly.
- Wait at least 1 ½ hours after eating a meal before exercising.
- Take time to include a 5-minute warm-up before any intense aerobic activity, and include a 5- to 10-minute cool down after the activity.
- Keep an exercise record.
How Can I Stick With It?
- Have fun! Choose an activity you like. You'll be more likely to stick with an exercise program if you enjoy the activity.
- Schedule exercise into your daily routine. Plan to exercise at the same time every day (such as in the mornings when you have more energy). Add a variety of exercises so you don’t get bored. If you exercise regularly, it will soon become part of your lifestyle.
- Find an exercise "buddy" who can help you stay motivated.
Also, exercise does not have to put a strain on your wallet. Don’t buy expensive equipment or health club memberships unless you are certain you will use them regularly.