How to Give Your Heart a Beach Body

How to Give Your Heart a Beach Body

You’ve heard the saying ‘you’re only as strong as your weakest link.’ Well, if that weak link is your heart then brawling biceps and six-pack abs will do little to help you hike Saugatuck Dunes or swim along Lake Michigan’s shore this summer.

Ever hear your thighs scream as you trek up Mt. Pisgah’s 239 stairs? Here’s why: Your exasperated muscles are letting you know they are not getting enough oxygen (O2) to do their job. Your body’s better half—your heart— tries to meet this demand by pumping faster and increasing the volume of oxygenated blood pumped out with each beat. Your pleasing heart tries to roll out the red carpet and deliver a bountiful bouquet of O2 to your desperate muscle cells. But if you’re still feeling the burn, your heart is falling short.

Good news is that your heart’s ability to deliver the goods to your demanding muscles is trainable. You can improve your heart’s efficiency through regular aerobic exercise.

Cardio exercise is strength training for the heart.

A strong predictor of how many beach days and birthdays you will celebrate is a gym-jargon term called maximal aerobic capacity. Improving “air”-obic capacity (taking in, transporting, and using O2 while exercising) hinges on your choice to move it …or lose it.

To give your heart a beach body, follow The American College of Sports Medicine evidence-based exercise recommendations (for most adults) using the acronym FITT-VP!

Frequency: at least 5 days/week of moderate exercise, or at least 3 days/week of vigorous exercise, or a combination of both at least 3 to 5 days/week.

Intensity*: Moderate and/or vigorous. (Light-to-moderate intensity may be beneficial in deconditioned individuals.)

Time: 30 - 60 minutes/day of purposeful moderate exercise or 20 - 60 minutes/day of vigorous exercise or a combination of both. (Less than 20 minutes/day can be beneficial, especially in previously sedentary adults.)

Type: Regular, purposeful exercise that involves major muscle groups and is continuous and rhythmic in nature. (e.g. walking, jogging, biking, swimming, rowing, cardio-machines, aerobic dancing.)

Volume: Increasing pedometer step counts by 2,000 steps/day to reach a daily step count of at least 7,000 steps/day. (Exercising below these volumes may still be beneficial for individuals unable or unwilling to reach this amount.)

Progression: Exercise may be performed in one continuous session or in multiple sessions of 10 minutes. (Bouts of < 10 minutes may still be beneficial for very deconditioned individuals.)

Gradually progress by adjusting frequency, intensity and time until the desired goal is reached. This approach may enhance stick-to-it-iveness and reduce risks of musculoskeletal injury and adverse cardiac events.

So get ready to hike Holland’s beaches and strike a muscle pose on the pier. Your beach body heart will remind you "it’s what’s on the inside that counts."

Keep moving,

*Breathing rate (breathlessness) and heart rate are related, so use the Talk Test to gauge your intensity. Moderate intensity means you can talk comfortably and carry on a conversation. Vigorous intensity is when talking becomes challenging and the ability to talk continuously becomes compromised. Most adults do not need to see their doctor before starting a moderate intensity activity program. Inactive men age 45 and older and inactive women age 55 and older should consult with their doctor before starting a vigorous exercise program.

Healthy Life Category