Strengthen Your Core, Protect Your Heart

Cardiovascular exercise is a great way to protect your heart. So is weight training!

Experts suggest that people who are at risk for heart disease undergo a functional exercise program. Functional exercise works many muscle groups in different directions against a source of resistance. Some examples of functional exercise include shoveling snow, raking leaves, and vacuuming the house.

You can often get the same results by doing a variety of different exercises — like combining a Pilates class with free weight training.

Functional exercise helps build muscle mass, thanks to the resistance portion. As you build muscle mass, you raise your metabolic rate (the rate at which your body burns calories). Your body works harder to maintain muscle than it does fat — that helps you lose weight. And losing weight is one GREAT way to lower your heart attack risk.

Strong, healthy muscles also help protect you against injury — that means you’ll be healthy and ready to keep working out and protecting your heart. It’s a cycle that will hopefully keep you going for a long time.

Experts also suggest that people who are at risk for heart disease start a core training program. Your core muscles are essential for supporting and protecting your spine — they are the muscles between your shoulders and your pelvis. Core workouts are great because they are efficient — they engage lots of different muscles and help speed up weight loss.

Using free weights (rather than weight machines) turns any workout into a core training workout. Lift free weights while standing and you also work the muscles of your back, abdomen, and legs.

Heart-strengthening functional and core exercise is also essential AFTER a heart attack. Studies have shown that exercise after a heart attack can reduce your risk of death from a second heart attack by as much as thirty percent. If you’ve had a heart attack or bypass surgery, look into secondary prevention — including supervised exercise (also called cardiac rehab).