2014-12-31 / Wellness

Make a Goal to Exercise in 2015

By Renee Harriston


Dr. George Charlton Dr. George Charlton With each new year, we make promises to ourselves. We tell ourselves I’ll change this, I’ll start that, and maybe, I’ll even do a little bit of this too. A healthy diet and a consistent exercise routine are now most likely on your 2015 New Year’s resolutions list as well. Statisticbrain.com charted a study by the University of Scranton's Journal of Clinical Psychology and found that among the most popular resolutions are losing weight and staying fit and healthy. According to the study, people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who do not.

To help support your health goals, Newport Hospital has renewed its commitment to a year of community outreach with free and affordable fitness, education and health care programs. Dr. George Charlton, M.D., F.A.C.C., who joined the Newport Hospital staff in July, is a board certified cardiologist at Newport Hospital and offers these heart healthy recommendations to help sustain this year’s resolution.

He offers these suggestions:

If you have cardiovascular disease other than mild high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you should speak with your general practitioner or cardiologist before beginning a new exercise regimen. Consider your musculoskeletal limitations and how you may need to design your exercise plan accordingly. When increasing your physical activity level, set realistic goals and always start slowly and increase in small increments. After you start exercising, listen to your body. If you develop any symptom (chest/arm/neck discomfort or severe shortness of breath) that occurs with exertion and is relieved by rest, see your general doctor or cardiologist before continuing with your exercise plan. Plan to work exercise into your daily and weekly routine.

For cardiovascular health benefits, people should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderateintensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week. This target should be achieved with exercise at least three days per week and optimally 5-7 days per week. In fact, one way to integrate exercise into your busy life is to break your routine up during the day by repeating 10+ minute exercise routines throughout the day. However, for patients with arthritis or musculoskeletal issues it may not be safe to exercise every day due to risk of overuse injuries.

From a cardiovascular standpoint, weight is not a limitation to exercise. For joint and musculoskeletal safety, however, people who are significantly overweight should see a professional trainer to design their exercise routine. Importantly, the cardiovascular benefits of exercise are not solely related to weight loss. Waist size is a good measure of healthy weight (better than body mass index or BMI), with healthy being a waist less than 40 inches for men and less than 35 inches for women. For overweight or obese people who plan to exercise to improve their health, a target waist size is more useful than a target weight, as you can replace fat with muscle. How should the amount of food you eat complement your exercise regime? This depends on your goals for exercising. If weight loss is a goal, you should certainly reduce total calorie intake. If you are already a healthy weight and looking to improve your physical fitness, you may need to slightly increase your caloric intake. For patients who need to lose or maintain a healthy weight, I recommend a dietary focus on portion size rather than a diet high or low in specific foods. A Mediterranean diet high in whole grains, with protein mainly from fish and nuts, is the healthiest choice for most people. But, in the U.S., our biggest dietary challenge is not so much what we eat as how much we eat.

Wait at least one hour after a meal to exercise vigorously. Small snacks such as granola or protein bars 15-30 minutes before exercise is OK.

For someone who already participates in regular activity without symptoms, there is no specific age where a cardiology evaluation would be indicated. Any new symptom that causes you to stop exercising would be reason to see your general doctor or cardiologist to discuss, particularly chest/arm/ neck pain with exertion.

People with a personal or family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes can improve these risk factors for heart disease by regular exercise, even with only minimal weight loss. For those who have had little regular physical activity, starting slowly with low-level cardio such as walking or biking is always safest. People with any of the above conditions should be followed regularly by a general practitioner, and they should continue to do so regularly after integrating exercise into their lifestyle.

Quitting smoking and exercise will significantly reduce the risk of progression of atherosclerosis and ultimately suffering a heart attack. Regular exercise is beneficial for everyone, even people who currently smoke cigarettes or have recently quit. In fact, an exercise routine can help provide support once a smoker commits to quitting. While smoking significantly increases a person's risk for heart disease, there is evidence that a smoker's risk starts to decrease within days to weeks of quitting. After a few years, most ex-smokers' risk for heart disease is near that of someone who never smoked.

Both cardio and resistance training help maintain physical wellbeing and reduce the risk of heart disease.

For generally healthy people, there is no health benefit to gadgets like portable activity or heart rate monitors. Some people, however, respond to the feedback they get from these devices, and that is fine if it works for you. People with heart disease need to start a supervised exercise program like the cardiac rehabilitation program at Newport Hospital rather than self-monitoring with commercial devices.

Dr. Charlton says regular physical activity will improve the quality and quantity of life for virtually everyone. It is always prudent to increase your physical activity level slowly and listen to your body if symptoms develop. People without heart disease or symptoms can start a regular exercise regimen without consulting a physician. Those with known heart disease, particularly coronary disease, need to see their doctor before engaging in vigorous activity and may benefit from a formal cardiac rehab program. Finally, most people starting out should consider consulting a professional trainer to help design an effective exercise routine with lower risk of musculoskeletal injury. To learn more about the free, affordable programs at Newport Hospital visit newporthospital.org.

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