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The Power of Your Heart

There are many well-known health benefits associated with regular participation in physical activity including:

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  • Lower risk of heart disease
  • Weight gain prevention
  • Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Lower risk of cancer
  • Reduced level of depression
  • Weight loss
  • Lower risk of high blood pressure
  • Lower risk of stroke

What you might not know is the remarkable capacity of the body to adapt to exercise.  Exercise creates physiological adaptations to the heart, helping it pump blood more efficiently therefore; allowing it to accomplish more, with less exertion. The more you exercise, the more efficient your heart becomes. This is called “adaptation”.

Facts about the heart:

  • At an average resting heart rate of 70 beats per minute, the heart can comfortably (average fitness level and no heart disease) perform at twice its resting value. The average adult can train between 122-181 beats per minute.
  • The amount of blood pumped by the heart can increase as much as 50-60% above resting values to meet the demands of exercise.
  • The average adult pumps about 5 liters of blood per minute. When exercising, the amount of blood your heart pumps can increase to almost eight times its resting value. A sedentary person will give a cardiac output of 20-22 liters per minute while an elite athlete will exhibit an output of 35-40 liters per minute.

Stroke Volume

Increased stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped through the heart) is a training effect of aerobic exercise and allows a fit individual to pump more blood per beat, resulting in a lower heart rate during a workout.

You may have experienced this when starting a training program. In the beginning, you might have been gasping for breath and not able to keep up with the intensity. As your program progresses, your breathing and stroke volume becomes more efficient, allowing you to breathe easier, hence maximize your performance.

This is why less fit individuals may have a harder time making it up a flight of stairs or walking across a parking lot while for a fit person – it’s just a way of life. For inactive people, their lungs and heart cannot handle the oxygen demands required for performing the exercise. They can’t get it to their organs fast enough.

CO2 Output

When you increase maximum blood flow to pump blood more efficiently it saturates your blood with oxygen and removes CO2 efficiently. Removing CO2 at a higher rate increases your performance and gives you greater aerobic power. As your body becomes more efficient with exercise, it is able to extract oxygen from the blood more quickly.

As much as 88% of your blood flow during exercise is directed to the muscles (active tissues)! The more you exercise, the higher the number of capillaries you build in your muscle fiber, which means more oxygen in your muscles (faster!) and increased fuel storage.

So what does this mean?

As your fitness level improves and your rate of breathing becomes more efficient, you are able to deliver more oxygen throughout your body more quickly. You can accomplish more, with less exertion, at a higher level of performance.

Be good to your heart and it will show you the love in return.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Favorite Fitness & Nutrition Apps

imagesI remember the days when I would go for a run and then go back out in my car to track how many miles I completed.  Those days are long gone.  Today, there are mobile apps for tracking your run, counting calories, designing workouts, monitoring your mood, and so much more.  Below are 7 of my favorites apps to help you achieve your fitness and nutrition goals. And stay tuned; we will tackle this topic again, as the list of ingenious and inventive apps continues to grow.

Run with MapMyRun + GPS running.  This app is the primary reason that I now run almost a full minute faster per mile than I used to run.  I don’t know how I ever ran without.  Its primary feature is to simply track how far and how fast you run in total and per mile.  You can play your music and run this app at the same time.  My favorite part is when my music lowers (this happens automatically each time you reach a mile marker) and I here that Siri like voice telling me that I have completed another mile and at what pace.  It keeps a record of all your runs and allows you to post to Facebook or Twitter. And it even has a nutrition tab that allows you to enter the food you have eaten and calculates your calorie budget for the day. $2.99.

iMuscle2.  This app is excellent for planning a workout and keeping track of your progress.  Using a beautiful rotating 3D model, you tap the body part that you want to work and then choose among dozens of exercises offered to work that specific body part.  You can filter the results based on which type of equipment (if any) that you have at your disposal. If you don’t want to build a custom workout, you can choose from one of the preset ones.  And if, like me, you have trouble understanding how an exercise is supposed to be performed based on a static picture, then you will love the little moving pictures that illustrate each move. For every exercise, it will tell you the primary and secondary muscles worked and will record the number of sets, reps, and weight used.  You will also have the opportunity to enter your weight, height and 10 different body measurements, so you can track exactly how your body is changing.  And all this is for $1.99.

Upbeat Workouts for Runners.  It has happened to most of us – you are hitting the pavement and feeling invigorated when some slow paced, depressing song starts playing and you can’t hit the skip button fast enough.  This app takes care of that problem.  It matches your running or walking steps to you pace – automatically!   It works directly from your own itunes library by picking the songs that suit your pace, whether cooling down or going all out.  $2.99

Lose it! and MyFitnessPal.  The goal of both of these apps is to help you lose weight by tracking everything that you eat.  It is the food journal that every health professional has been telling us to keep if we want to lose weight. Both are 5 star apps and both do their job well.  But to note a few differences, MyFitnessPro has a much larger restaurant database and its bar scanner (which they both have) seems to recognize more food.  On the other hand, Lose It! seems a bit less ‘techie’ and slightly easier to navigate.  For imputing homemade meals, MyFitnessPal can be a touch more cumbersome, but it will remember your meals.  You really cannot go wrong with either one and since they are both free – why not try both?

Fooducate.  This app looks beyond simple calorie counts – it helps you eat healthy.  Simply scan any food at the grocery story or type in the name of an item, and it will not only tell you the calories per serving, but it will also assign a letter grade to your selection.  It will let you know about harmful ingredients or what vitamin or nutrient it is a good source of, as well as provide GMO details (this is an upgraded feature).  And to make your shopping easier, it will even suggest a similar, but healthier alternative.  Free, but lots of upgrades available for additional cost.

Healthy Break.  A recent American Heart Association study showed that periods of inactivity beyond 30 minutes will slow down your metabolism.  Your time at the gym is important, but what you do the rest of the day affects your metabolism as well.  So get up from that computer and stretch and walk around – but wouldn’t it nice to be reminded?  This little app does just that.  You can set it to go off at certain intervals and to repeat for a set period of time. Now you will never forget to keep moving!  Free, but a pro version available for $1.99

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Getting Back On The Exercise Wagon And Staying On It!

It has happened to all of us – and often before we even realize it.  One week you miss your workouts due to a busy schedule, and then the next week you skip because you don’t feel well.  Before you know it, a month has passed by and your laces haven’t seen any action. Months may even turn into years.  Once you stop fitting exercise into your life, it may seem hard to find time for it again. You may not remember how you ever found time for it in the first place.  But don’t throw in the towel!  You can start again and find the time.  Here are some tips to get you going again:

 1)         Stop beating yourself up for quitting – Just Start!  Forget about the lost days and months – you can’t get them back, but you can change the days to come.  And you are not as far gone as you think.  All that earlier work created a foundation that is waiting to be drawn out.  Muscles do have memory.

2)         Define and write down your WHY.  There will be days when you are tired and not in the mood, so it helps to have something powerful to remind you why you started in the first place.  It should be something motivating that stirs an emotional reaction, and probably needs to be more powerful than just fitting into those skinny jeans (although that can be part of the reason!).  Think of your life long wellness and how exercise can lead to a healthy and longer life.

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 3)         Write down your goals.  Studies have shown that people who write down their goals are much more likely to obtain them.  Just ensure that they are realistic and achievable. When you first set a goal, you’re full of energy and completely motivated, but over time those feelings can wane and your overzealousness can push you to do too much too soon. The fix is to define a progressive set of goals that build on one another to help propel you toward that big goal. Breaking a big goal into smaller, realistic goals can help you both mentally and physically. For example, start with weekly goals such as a certain number of visits to the gym or minutes of exercise a day, rather than a six month goal of losing 40 pounds.

4)         Try something new.  This is especially helpful if boredom was one of the reasons that you fell off the wagon in the first place.  Today’s fitness options are varied and almost limitless. In most areas, you can choose among boot camps, CrossFit, Zumba, kick boxing, Bar Method, spinning, yoga and running groups, as well as many other options.  If you want to start out at home, there is an excellent supply of home DVD videos.  If you really need to be accountable to someone, consider hiring a personal trainer.

5)         Join a challenge!  These are not hard to find.  Look for local 5K runs or short distance triathlons.  You can check out your gym for contests and even workplaces are getting into the game as they see the benefits of healthy employees.  These will require determination and hard work, but you will be surprised how much fun you have and how many people you meet.

6)         Look beyond the scale.  If weight loss is your main goal, don’t rely entirely on the numbers of the scale.  It is common for exercisers to lose fat and gain muscle without a change in body weight, so it is important to look beyond the scale. Notice how your clothes fit and how your body feels stronger.  You should also feel your increased energy level and overall better mood, as exercise has been proven to boost both of these.

Falling off the wagon happens to everyone.  Stop worrying about what happened in the past and look forward.  The first step back on is the hardest and requires motivation, but soon it will become habit and that will keep you going.

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