More Than Education

More Than Education, the health, fitness & coaching blog by More Than Muscle. This area of the site should be used as a reference point for everything educational relating to training, nutrition, health, fitness & coaching!

How to improve your Heart Health Posted on 16/11/2018

How to improve your Heart Health

When we reflect on the positive effects of leading a healthy lifestyle, we tend to focus on, and give credit to, results we can see and feel. Whether it’s stronger lifting capabilities through increased muscle mass or looser fitting clothes due to fat loss, these are fantastic achievements created through consistent hard work. Yet, we don’t always consider the impact healthy living has on something slightly less perceptible. Here’s a clue: it beats on average 2.5 billion times in a lifetime...

One of our clients, however, certainly was paying attention to this vital organ. She has been monitoring her heart rate (the number of times per minute that the heart contracts or beats) over the past 10 months and is astonished by the changes she has experienced since starting personal training: she’s drastically improved her average resting heart rate from 79 BPM to 57 BPM. Having recently turned 50, this is and will continue to be very advantageous to her overall health because the older we become, the higher our risk of developing heart disease.

Sadly, heart disease still remains the number one cause of death globally among men and women. Although it’s widely believed that the only way to improve your heart health is through intense cardio like running, biking or swimming; there are in fact, many other ways to protect this vascular organ.


The Science 

The basic biology is that our hearts thrive when we build both aerobic and anaerobic capacity. Unfamiliar with this terminology? - let’s break it down:

Aerobic system: 

This happens when we are exercising low to moderate effort over a long period of time (walking, jogging, cycling). Our bodies use glycogen and fat as fuel so oxygen is required and therefore we become breathless.

Anaerobic system:

This happens when we sprint or weight train (up to 70 seconds of work is required). Our bodies build up lactic acid causing fatigue as oxygen is not present which helps build muscle tissue and improves metabolic rate.

Here's a good example to compare how these two energy systems differ: a marathon runner (aerobic) and a sprinter (anaerobic). Exercising aerobically helps improve fitness of the heart and lungs, whereas anaerobic exercise helps your body become a better engine and also builds lean tissue.

Listen to the beat

It's really important to get clued up on your heart rate. The good news is that the increased use of heart rate monitors at gyms and on fitness trackers means many people are now more aware of how their heart is functioning.

After the age of 10, the heart rate of a person should be between 60 and 100 beats per minute while they are resting. The British Heart Association states that the maximum heart rate during exercise should be roughly equal to 220 bpm, minus the age of the person. Although heart rate accelerates as a result of physical activity, as our heart becomes stronger and more efficient, our heart rate slows down because it needs to work less hard to transport the necessary nutrients and oxygen to different parts of the body.


Don't bury your head in the sand

Protecting your vital organs is not something that should be taken lightly. Don't neglect these common reasons your heart rate may be on the rise: excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption, unhealthy diet, overweight, lacking exercise, depression, smoking or ... perhaps you’ve just finished an intense fitness session! If you’re someone who particularly struggles with stress or anxiety, practicing yoga, reading, diaphragmatic breathing or just taking 5 minutes to yourself to get some headspace and relax can also help lower activity in the autonomic system, which controls heart rate.

If one or more of these factors relate to you and you’re noticing that your average resting heart rate or blood pressure seems elevated, we'd highly recommend taking steps to improving your heart health.

Consulting with a personal trainer is a great place to start, as well as sticking to some very simple lifestyle changes: maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, managing blood pressure, reducing blood sugar, quitting smoking and controlling cholesterol.

At MTM, we assess your body's movement patterns and fitness levels before we ever start a training session with you; this ensures your overall health is in safe hands with us as we never assume that any two people are the same! Outside of training sessions, we will also assess your current lifestyle choices, sleep patterns and nutritional intake - all of which play key roles in your overall heart health.