Exercise for a Healthy Heart
What Should I Include in an Exercise Program?
Every exercise session should include a warm-up, conditioning phase, and a 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, slowly increases your breathing, circulation (heart rate), and body temperature. It also helps improve flexibility and reduce muscle soreness. The best warm-up includes stretching, range of motion activities, and the beginning of the activity at a low intensity level.
- 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 over do it.
- Cool-down. This is the last phase of your exercise session. It allows your body to gradually recover from the conditioning phase. Your heart rate and blood pressure will return to near resting values. Cool-down does not mean to sit down! In fact, do not sit, stand still, or lie down right after exercise. This may cause you to feel dizzy or lightheaded 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.
What Is the Rated Perceived Exertion Scale?
The Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale is used to measure the intensity of your exercise. The RPE scale runs from 0-10. The numbers below relate to phrases used to rate how easy or difficult you find an activity. For example, 0 (nothing at all) would be how you feel when sitting in a chair; 10 (very, very heavy) would be how you feel at the end of an exercise stress test or after a very difficult activity.
Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale
Nothing at all
Very, very heavy
In most cases, you should exercise at a level that feels 3 (moderate) to 4 (somewhat heavy). When using this rating scale, remember to include feelings of shortness of breath, as well as how tired you feel in your legs and overall.
What Are Some Warm-Up Exercises?
Every exercise session should start with a warm-up. Here are some stretching exercises you can try to get yourself started. Please check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. If any of the following exercises causes pain, do not continue the activity and seek the advice of a doctor or physical therapist.