Your heart is about the size of your fist and consists of cardiac muscle. This type of muscle is responsible for pumping blood through your body. It is the hardest working muscle.
The normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60-100 beats per minute with the average about 72. In general, a lower resting heart implies better cardiovascular fitness. An elite athlete’s resting heart rate can be as low as 40 beats per minute. To determine your resting heart rate, check your pulse first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. Put two fingers between the bone and the tendon on the thumb side of your wrist. When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats for 15 seconds, then multiply this number by four. The total is your resting heart rate.
Exercise strengthens all your muscles including your heart. With exercise, the heart becomes more efficient to pump more blood with each beat. This allows it to beat slower which keeps your blood pressure under control. A combination of aerobic workouts (walking, running, and other vigorous heart-pumping exercise) and strength or resistance training is best for heart health.
When exercising, remember these ideas
- It is imperative to check with your physician prior to starting
- Warm up and cool down as part of your exercise habit
- Find a workout buddy to keep it fun
- Change up your routine every few weeks to keep things interesting
Since one of the best things you can do for your heart is to be physically active, here are some of the ways exercise can help.
- Increases HDL, the good cholesterol
- Lowers triglycerides, the fat the circulates in the blood
- Pumps more oxygen to the heart and lungs
- Reduces blood pressure and heart rate
The bottom line is that exercise appears to provide benefits for your hardest working muscle. Strengthening this muscle can lead to better heart health.