Heart disease is a leading cause of death and disability. This shouldn’t be a surprise – it’s been at the top of the list for years. You know that taking care of your heart is important. That means doing things like eating right, avoiding smoking, and exercising regularly. For the purposes of this article, the focus is on cardiovascular exercise.
Cardiovascular exercise is anything that makes you breathe harder and your heart pump faster. This could be walking, running, dancing, biking, swimming or hiking. Cardiovascular exercise strengthens your heart and blood vessels. It can also help control weight, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve mood and sleep patterns, and prevent heart disease.
The American Heart Association recommends that adults and get at least 150 minutes of “heart pumping exercise” each week – preferably spread out over the course of multiple days. Kids and teens should be getting an hour of exercise EVERY DAY.
If you’re regularly going for a run or swimming laps, you are potentially getting a sufficient amount of cardiovascular exercise. However, astonishingly, estimates are that 3 out of 4 adults are NOT exercising regularly. If you’d like to get started or renew your commitment to exercise for health, your physical therapist may be just the person to help you. It’s not uncommon to get injured, or caught up in work or the holidays, and then to get out of your routine and then never get back. It’s also not uncommon to try to be more active on your own, only to stir up a new pain somewhere like in your back, hip, knee or shoulder. Your PT can help you deal with any “nagging” injury or pain issue and work with you to design a plan to get you safely and comfortably back to regular activity. They’ll figure out why you’re having pain, help you correct any mechanical issues, and get you started with a plan to enable you to reach your goals.
Physical therapists can also help you safely increase your activity levels after major medical issues like a heart attack, stroke, or even cancer. For example, recent research has shown improvements in cardiovascular fitness, fatigue levels and even pain in cancer patients that participate in a personalized physical fitness plan from a PT. Physical therapists additionally work with patients that have chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or autoimmune disorders. The bottom line is that if you do not feel “up” to moving around and being active – regardless of your base level of health or fitness – a physical therapist is a health professional with whom you should be working.
Whatever your barriers to physical activity are, your PT can likely help you overcome them. As movement experts, physical therapists are trained to deal with a large variety of health conditions. They’ll help you to safely and consistently elevate your heart rate and keep your cardiovascular system running smoothly!